A Veteran’s Story: Herb Shorter

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Herb Shorter

Military Service:  U.S. Navy, Senior Chief Petty Officer, Flight Engineer

Current Job:  Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Aviation Captain

 

Military Background:

I am a native of Connecticut, where I excelled in basketball and graduated from Ledyard High School in 1983. I enlisted in the U.S. Navy shortly thereafter, to serve my country and provide a ladder of opportunity to achieve my potential.  Upon completion of basic training and Aviation Machinist Mate school, I joined the Fleet Reconnaissance Squadron Two in Rota Spain as an aircraft mechanic on EA-3B Sky Warrior aircraft.

In August 1993, after several aircraft mechanic duty assignments in Rota Spain, I was selected to attend the Naval Aircrew Candidate School at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida.   After a demanding year of accelerated training, I finished ranked number 2 in my class, and earned my Naval Aircrew Wings.

From 1995 to 1998, I was stationed at Naval Air Station, Barber’s Point Hawaii, where I worked as Power Plants LPO and earned the Enlisted Aviation Special Warfare pin.  From 1998 to 2001, I returned to Rota Spain and became Senior Crew Leader for three deployments as part of Operations NORTHERN WATCH and ALLIED FORCE, logging over 200 combat flight hours.

I returned to Hawaii in 2001, and held increasing levels of responsibility on my journey to Senior Chief Petty Officer and Senior Enlisted Advisor. In 2010, I retired from the U.S. Navy with over twenty-six years of service; ten as an aircraft mechanic, and sixteen as a Flight Engineer. My personal awards include: Air Medal Second Strike Flight Award, Navy Commendation Award (with two gold stars), and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with four gold stars).

I am married with three daughters, and we reside in Charlotte North Carolina.

Military-to-Civilian Transition:

In 2000, when I was stationed in Rota Spain, a fellow flight engineer on the P3 aircraft asked me if I ever thought about getting my pilot certificates. I told him that I never thought about it, but it was something that I was interested in. At that moment, a light bulb went on, and I began the planning and work to accomplish my long-term goal, to become a working civilian pilot.  In 2001 I moved from Spain to Hawaii, and as soon as I arrived, I began the training to get my pilot certificates. Like most people, I was hooked after my first flight in a Cessna 172.  It took me from 2001 to 2004 to receive all of my pilot certificates; private, instrument, commercial, and certified flight instructor, but I accomplished it.

After 2004, I started earning extra money and building flight hours as a certified flight instructor.  I would work as a flight instructor during the week after finishing my navy job, and on the weekends. It was grueling, but I was determined to achieve my goals.  Once I had built 1,200 hours of flight time, I started searching for jobs where I could work as a part time 135-line pilot (small commuter planes). Essentially, from 2004 to 2010, I worked three jobs:  the U.S. Navy, certified flight instructor, and 135-line pilot.

Additionally, from 2004 until 2009, I also attended college to get my bachelors degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. It was a very busy time in my life, but I had set goals to earn my degree and build as many flight hours as possible, so that when I retired from the U.S. Navy, I could get a job as a pilot and properly support my family.

Lessons learned:

Networking is the key to developing opportunities:

My navy colleagues that I served with over those last ten years knew that I was working diligently to achieve my aviation and educational goals.  They observed my work ethic, and I was always very open about discussing my goals with them, including the Officers/Pilots in my unit.  I believe they were impressed with my relentless pursuit of self-improvement, and it eventually paid off.

Some of those officers/pilots got out of the navy before me, and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina to establish Jetpool LLC, a private jet Charter Company.  When they learned that I was retiring after 26 years in the U.S. Navy, they reached out and recruited me to join them in the new company as a pilot.  After a few recruiting trips from Hawaii to Charlotte, my family and I decided that it was the right opportunity to pursue.

Long term planning:

As I progressed in my navy career, I realized that the Flight Engineer role was declining due to improving technology, which reduced the workload in the cockpit and allowed most modern aircraft to be managed by a crew of only two.  Therefore, I began a long-term plan to gain my pilot certifications and sufficient hours, so that I would be a credible candidate for a corporate pilot job upon my retirement.

The key is to understand that my successful transition was the product of many years of planning, and executing.  Your odds for success are greatly improved if you have a thoughtful transition plan, and you properly prepare and allow for sufficient time to lay the foundation.

Perseverance:

It is easier to establish goals, than it is to execute them over a long time period.  It takes discipline, confidence and determination to stay on course and persevere.

The very nature of building so many flight hours required long-term management and prioritization of time, financial budgeting, family responsibilities and continued high-level performance in my navy job.  A transitioning veteran should understand that there will be good days and challenging days, and they have to push through to achieve their goals.

Current role:

From my U.S. Navy departure date in 2010 until December 2015, I worked for Jetpool. In December 2015, another excellent opportunity emerged from my continuous networking in the aviation community.

 

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Coca-Cola Bottling Company, with flight operations based out of Charlotte Douglass International Airport, hired me on as a Captain on the Falcon 2000LX and the Citation XL aircraft.   My long-term vision, which started in Rota Spain almost seventeen years ago with the light bulb illuminating after a conversation with a navy buddy, has been realized.

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Good luck to all of my fellow veterans in their transition. My contact is hrshorter@hotmail.com.

 

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