After 26 years, Air Force Reserve pilot career ends, Merritt still in air

Col. Brent Merritt, 94th Airlift Wing vice commander, flies for the last time as an Air Force Reservist at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., on June 5, 2016. Merritt retired after 26 years of service to the United States Air Force. (US Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

Col. Brent Merritt, 94th Airlift Wing vice commander, flies for the last time as an Air Force Reservist at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., on June 5, 2016. Merritt retired after 26 years of service to the United States Air Force. (US Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

Col. Brent Merritt, 94th Airlift Wing vice commander, prepares to take off at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., on June 4, 2016. This was Merritt's last flight before he retired from his 26 years of service in the United States Air Force. (US Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

Col. Brent Merritt, 94th Airlift Wing vice commander, prepares to take off at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., on June 4, 2016. This was Merritt's last flight before he retired from his 26 years of service in the United States Air Force. (US Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

Col. Brent Merritt, 94th Airlift Wing vice commander; Chief Master Sgt. Terry Studstill, 700th Airlift Squadron Flight Engineer superintendent; and Lt. Col. Brian Ferguson, 94th Operations Support Squadron commander, prepare for flight at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., on June 4, 2016. This was Merritt's last flight as an Air Force Reservist before he retired. (US Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

Col. Brent Merritt, 94th Airlift Wing vice commander; Chief Master Sgt. Terry Studstill, 700th Airlift Squadron Flight Engineer superintendent; and Lt. Col. Brian Ferguson, 94th Operations Support Squadron commander, prepare for flight at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., on June 4, 2016. This was Merritt's last flight as an Air Force Reservist before he retired. (US Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga -- The vice wing commander is set to retire July 1, but held his retirement ceremony here after piloting his final military flight June 4.

While soaring amongst the clouds piloting his final military flight in a C-130 Hercules, Col. Brent Merritt pointed out landmarks and places he frequented throughout his tenure at Dobbins.

Merritt has been part of the Air Force family for 26 years, not including his days at the United States Air Force Academy where it all began.

“I’ve missed flying like this,” said Merritt in-flight.

Merritt flies for Delta when he’s not at the 94th Airlift Wing. As the vice wing commander, and acting commander for a few months, he was responsible for more than 2,500 wing personnel and more than 12,000 tenant personnel including 22nd Air Force, Air Force Plant 6 and Lockheed Martin, Georgia National Guard, and Army, Navy and Marine Corps Reserve units.

During the ceremony the presiding official, Col. Trent Van Hulzen, 30-year friend of the soon-to-be retiree, spoke about how Merritt “blazed the trail everywhere he went.”

Merritt was part of the initial cadre of C-17 pilots. Van Hulzen said he made many sacrifices along the way, especially where family was concerned.

“This man is all about teamwork and unselfishness,” said Van Hulzen. “It showed in his service, work, family and friends.”

Merritt went on to speak at length about the way his family has supported him throughout his military and civilian careers as a pilot.

He told the story of how he met his wife and went on to say that his children “didn’t ask to be born into the Air Force.” They supported him through his whole journey he said and he looks forward to being able to spend more time with them.

During his speech he also touched on overcoming adversity to include his personal rules for preventing self-inflicted adversity.

“Nothing is ever as good as it seems, or as bad as it seems,” he said.

As a new pilot, Merritt said he often wondered if he was good enough to meet the demands of flying, but he always rose to the challenge."
Among his most memorable moments were seeing those he commanded grasp his vision for something and then take it farther than he imagined possible.

Merritt said he is confident that the wing will continue to grow under the new leadership and he looks forward to focusing on his family and career with Delta.

As the crew began the descent checklist on his final military flight he told his crew, “Thanks guys, it’s been a pleasure.”