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A Pilot in the Making

Aaron Staiger (front) leads the Air Force Junior ROTC Honor Guard as it presents the colors before Beavercreek High School’s home football game Sept. 10. Staiger is a cadet lieutenant colonel and deputy commander in the JROTC unit. (Contributed photo)

Aaron Staiger (front) leads the Air Force Junior ROTC Honor Guard as it presents the colors before Beavercreek High School’s home football game Sept. 10. Staiger is a cadet lieutenant colonel and deputy commander in the JROTC unit. (Contributed photo)

Beavercreek High School senior Aaron Staiger works on his backhand during varsity team practice earlier this fall. Tennis is among his many after-school activities. (Contributed photo)

Beavercreek High School senior Aaron Staiger works on his backhand during varsity team practice earlier this fall. Tennis is among his many after-school activities. (Contributed photo)

Beavercreek High School senior Aaron Staiger works on his backhand during varsity team practice earlier this fall. Tennis is among his many after-school activities. (Contributed photo)

Aaron Staiger, an Air Force Junior ROTC cadet at Beavercreek High School, poses in front of a Piper PA-28-181 single-engine aircraft July 26 after successfully completing his checkride for a private pilot’s license. (Contributed photo

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Throughout the military, there are individuals who exhibit determination to exceed their limits. This is the case for Aaron Staiger, a senior and cadet lieutenant colonel in Beavercreek High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC program.

Staiger is showing those signs prior to the start of his official military career.

He serves as the OH-20182 deputy commander in charge of 158 cadets at Beavercreek with aspirations to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy and become a pilot.

The goals he has set for himself may seem lofty to some. But his credentials and motivation to reach them are impressive.

Staiger, who maintains an unweighted GPA of 3.94 and weighted GPA of 4.36, is on track to graduate with honors next spring. His coursework includes advanced math and science, along with some English and social studies college classes.

On top of his academics, he attained a private pilot’s license over the summer.

Staiger’s JROTC instructors are confident he has what it takes to attend the Air Force Academy.

“Aaron is definitely among my top 1% of 2,300-plus cadets during my 14-year tenure as an Air Force Junior ROTC instructor,” said David Mackey, a retired senior master sergeant. “He’s a well-rounded young man, and I’m excited to see what he does in the future.”

 

Air Force family roots

Hitting high altitudes in the Air Force and other pursuits is a family affair for Staiger.

His mother, Kathy, is a retired lieutenant colonel and pilot currently serving as a reservist in the 445th Airlift Wing. His father, John, works at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as an aeronautical engineer in the Air Force Research Laboratory.

His brother, Austin, plays tennis at Cleveland State University. Prior to his college career, Austin was a three-time district qualifier at Beavercreek, where he became the school’s first player to qualify for the state tournament in 25 years.

Staiger says his family’s accomplishments motivate him to make a success story of his own.

“Seeing my family’s success and opportunities helped inspire me to make my own goals,” he said. “I want to make my mark in my own way, and I believe this is the journey I was meant to take.”

Excelling in and outside class

Staiger has already applied for the Air Force Academy, but as he hits the home stretch of his high school career, he is busier than ever. He’s involved in several extracurricular activities.

In addition to serving as JROTC deputy commander, he was a logistics commander and participates in the unit’s Model Rocketry Program. He is a member of the Kitty Hawk Air Society and National Honor Society.

His decorations include the Cadet of the Quarter Top Performer Award, Outstanding JROTC Medal, National JROTC Deadalians Achievement Medal and National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution JROTC Medal.

Besides attending the Intro to Flying Course at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Staiger has attended Air Camp and was selected for a JROTC Flight Training Scholarship to Bowling Green.

Staiger also participates in activities at Saint Luke Catholic Church in Beavercreek.

“Sometimes, it can be hard to manage all the activities that I’m involved with while still maintaining good grades,” he said. “I often have to prioritize certain things in order to be successful. At a young age, I was involved in numerous activities, which helped me get used to being busy and taught me how to adapt to stress.”

Sports is another big outlet for Staiger, which helps him decompress, stay sharp and remain focused on tasks.

He plays varsity tennis for Beavercreek High School and gives lessons to children. He trains in martial arts, competing in Tae Kwon Do and Tang Soo Do. In 2019, he placed in a Miami Valley Tournament Association event.

At the recreation level, Staiger also swims, plays softball, participates in water and snow skiing, hikes, referees soccer and competes in Beavercreek esports.

“Even when I feel like I have no time, it is always good to exercise and relieve any built-up stress,” he said. “Then when I start working again, I find myself refreshed and ready to get the job done.”

 

Passion for flying

The Air Force wouldn’t be what it is without some of the best pilots in the world. Staiger says he’s dreamed of joining that select group since his early days.

“The main thing that prompts me toward joining the Air Force is becoming a pilot,” he said. “When I was younger, I went on my first small airplane flight, where I got to control the yoke and turn the plane. I fell in love with the idea of being a pilot, and I created goals to get myself there.

“My mom definitely helped spark my dream because she was the one who helped me get that first flight. She also told me all her amazing stories of her flying, and it made flying seem like an exciting, viable career.”

His JROTC instructors maintain that they see great things ahead for Staiger as he works to get into the Air Force Academy and become an Air Force pilot.

“Aaron prepared himself for Flight Academy long before the program’s inception,” said retired Maj. Melvin Whitlow, a Beavercreek JROTC instructor. “His rigorous academic courseload and physical training routine were keys to him completing the program. Aaron’s determination will serve him well as he pursues his goal of attending the U.S. Air Force Academy.”