|MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan, Aug. 9, 2007 —
Every kid is asked what he wants to be when he grows up. Most children name popular professions: “I want to be a doctor,” or “I’m going to be a firefighter,” or “I want to be a teacher.” But how many of those children actually go on to become what they say they want to be?
After he joined a family friend on a private flight as a 10-year-old, Benjamin Read knew what he wanted. From that day on, his answer to that inevitable “What do you want to be?” question was: “I want to be a pilot.”
While many years have passed since the 31-year-old, now an Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 212 airframes officer-in-charge, was a child, most of those years have been spent pursuing his dream and polishing his skills.
The native of Charlotte, N.C., will shortly earn his section-lead designation, which is an important step in a pilot’s career.
“It’s a significant milestone because it authorizes me to lead junior wingman into combat,” said the relaxed, mild-mannered Read. “As a wingman, you’re mostly responsible for yourself. As the section-lead, you’re responsible for the other pilot, his safety and the accomplishment of the mission.”
Read, a graduate of Oregon State University, didn’t take a direct route to his chosen profession. After high school and a brief stint in college, he joined the enlisted ranks of the Marine Corps.
“I didn’t think (becoming an officer and pilot) was an option at that time,” said Read, who has a degree in business management. “I didn’t have the personal discipline required for college.”
So he joined the Marine Corps as an avionics maintainer and found himself working on CH-53 helicopters. While his job required his full attention, his goal of becoming a pilot never left his sights. Three years into his enlistment, the corporal told his master sergeant, “Top Burdette,” of his aspirations to become an officer and pilot.
“He told me, ‘If that’s what you want to do, then go for it’,” said Read.
So Read submitted an officer package, believing that his chances for getting selected for the competitive program were slim to none. A few months later, he received a welcomed surprise: He got in.