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Military service provides sense of purpose, community

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rachel Simones
  • Air Force Test Center

Bradley J. Landry faced a feeling of apprehension as his high school graduation quickly approached. The decision to attend college and establish career goals felt like a hurdle he was unsure he could overcome. His first year in college proved to be more than he had bargained for. He was left feeling defeated and faced even more decisions that would shape his future.

Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, Landry made one of the most impactful decisions of his life. He put former feelings of defeat behind him and focused on becoming a part of something bigger than himself by enlisting in the U.S. Air Force.

“It was the biggest decision of my life,” said Landry. “My parents were afraid and I was scared. My friends said goodbye and I never looked back.”

Landry began his enlisted career as an emergency manager at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota. This assignment took him away from familiar surroundings and catapulted him into the unknown.

“That assignment taught me how to bear down on the things that make one uncomfortable, and stare them in the face,” said Landry. “Being enlisted forged my resolve in the winters of North Dakota and taught me how to stick with things.”

Joining the Air Force provided Landry with a sense of accountability and helped him establish attainable goals for professional development.

“I achieved the rank of senior airman below the zone, finished a Bachelor’s degree in the evenings, and then completed an executive Master of Business Administration degree while enlisted active duty,” said Landry. “I made friends at my base, was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and also made friends there. I became a part of the community in a way that would not settle into my consciousness until much later in life.”

After Landry’s six-year enlistment, he felt he had conquered his goals and was ready to part ways with the military. He ended his enlisted career and ventured into the civilian world to seek new opportunities. Landry landed a job with an oil and gas company and felt like he had become a success story. Despite his success, though, he felt like something was missing.

“About a year or so after separating from the Air Force I begin to feel something,” said Landry. “Something confusing, something I could not pin down to what exactly it was, or where exactly it was coming from.”

Landry relentlessly chased this feeling of emptiness. He ran triathlons, attended mountaineering school, and learned about fly-fishing. He traveled across the world, from Iceland to Nepal to Thailand, seeking something to fill the void that he felt since he left the Air Force.

“It was then, six years after I had separated from active duty that I took a chance on myself and applied to be an active duty Air Force officer,” said Landry. “The process was long and arduous and I would be cutting it close. By the time my package was in and I was finally accepted, I was 34 years old and the commissioning cut-off age was before 35.”

Landry had evolved from a directionless teenager to a determined leader. Now a first lieutenant, he works as a capital investments project manager with the Test Systems Sustainment and Integration branch at the Arnold Engineering and Development Complex (AEDC) in Tennessee.

“One of my most recent projects includes some major modifications to AEDC’s Hypersonic Wind Tunnels. The tunnels, which have the ability to generate Mach number capabilities of up to Mach 10, are used extensively to obtain large aerodynamic and aero-thermodynamic databases that are used to develop supersonic and hypersonic flight vehicles,” said Landry. “The purpose of my particular project is to update the Model Injection Systems (MIS) for these tunnels, which bring the test article in and out of the hypersonic airflow within the tunnels. Infrastructure will ultimately ensure the Air Force’s test capabilities in order to meet our nation’s strategic goals.”

Landry’s military experience has provided him the opportunity to work on ground-breaking projects that shape future innovations for the Air Force. Another project Landry is involved in includes some major modifications to AEDC’s 16T Propulsion Wind Tunnel, which has supported nearly every major Department of Defense flight vehicle program over the last 55 years.

“The purpose of my project for the 16T Propulsion Wind Tunnel was to install FLIR cameras behind sapphire glass within the tunnel walls to collect infrared signatures across the models being tested,” said Landry. “These tests using the new infrared capability will provide technical analysis and strategic data crucial to the life cycle of Air Force flight assets. My input and combined efforts with others on a project to install these infrared cameras will ultimately increase the Air Force’s test capabilities in order to meet our nation’s strategic goals.”

Not only is Landry now a subject matter expert in his respective career field, but he has taken the lead on projects that strengthen mission success throughout the entire Department of Defense.

“At 38 years old I know I am one of oldest active duty lieutenants around,” said Landry. “Considering the journey I’ve taken just to get right where I am now, I would say I feel the deepest privilege just to do what I do each day here in the Air Force.”

Landry plays an integral role at the AEDC. He ensures that test managers are able to carry out their assignments to further technology advancements and enhance lethality for warfighters across the military.

“I manage cost, schedule and performance of large-scale investment projects designed to update, modernize or increase the capabilities of some of the Air Force’s most advanced testing equipment,” said Landry. “As a project manager, my job differs in that I manage multi-year efforts to help sustain and improve AEDC’s ability to conduct testing.”

Although Landry embarked on an untraditional path, his pursuits paid off. Re-joining the military provided him with a sense of community and fulfillment that he had been seeking for years.

“There exists a special quality within us Air Force types, and I believe that is our commitment to each other,” said Landry. “That commitment gives life to that uncommon sense of community we experience with one another.”