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"Brothers in Arms" - two brothers, one mission

By Tech. Sgt. Della Creech | 315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs | Nov. 18, 2020

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JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C.  —

Two men, two journeys, several aircraft, one name tape – Thurber. It’s not every day that you can share your passion for the sky with your brother in more than arms.

In a towering stance, Maj. Matt Thurber, C-17 Globemaster III pilot with the 300th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., shares his journey from a young Air Force cadet at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to the pilot he is today. A quite similar set of strong shoulders stand beside him, his younger brother, Capt. Kevin Thurber, also a C-17 pilot with the 300 AS, shares their unique experiences of growing their careers from flying fighters to cargo aircraft.

Often, it's rumored that military families continue military families, but the Thurber line took this trait commonality to the next level. Not only did their father Bill Thurber serve as a pilot in the Air Force himself, but he ignited a thirst for knowledge in these future Air Force pilots. With their father laying big shoes to fill, not one, but all of his sons were quick to accept the challenge of serving their country.

“I love that my family bleeds blue,” said Karen Thurber, whose husband, three sons and daughter-in-law serve in the Air Force.

As young boys, they would watch their father take off over the years in the FB-111 Aardvark during his Air Force career and eventually the Delta Air Lines aircraft he currently flies.

Following in their father’s footsteps of flying, Maj. Matt Thurber was drawn to commissioning and trained as an instructor and pilot, starting out on the F-16 Fighting Falcon at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, shortly after graduating from the Air Force Academy, and Capt. Kevin Thurber commissioned and trained as a weapons system officer for the F-15E Strike Eagle at Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.

“After growing up around my father’s Air Force career, I knew I would be a pilot from a young age," said Matt Thurber. "There’s no other experience like going vertical in a fighter jet.”

During Matt Thurber’s 16-year-Air-Force-career, he was able to transition from active duty in the 308th Fighter Squadron at Luke AFB, Ariz., to become a reservist as a C-17 pilot with the 300 AS here at Joint Base Charleston. When not in his military role, as a reservist, he is a pilot with Delta Air Lines and participates in mentorship programs for both civilian and military pilots.

“Matt has proven to be an amazing mentor in the 300 AS as well as within Delta Air Lines,” said Lt. Col. Mark Pool, director of operations with the 300 AS. “We couldn’t be more lucky to have him.”

Little did the Thurber brothers know that, as a young man, Kevin Thurber would be inspired to reach 50,000 feet as well. With his brother Matt having a seven-year advantage on him and being a well-versed mentor, he was encouraged to go through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the Georgia Institute of Technology, there he commissioned and went on to train to be a pilot on the F-15E.

Kevin Thurber quickly excelled at the 335th Fighter Squadron, Seymour-Johnson AFB on F-15E missions overseas. There, he came head-to-head with enemy forces several times and prevailed with a response time of less than ten minutes from contact.

“Kevin is crazy skilled, he’s simply head and shoulders above the competition,” said Pool. 

After four years on active duty, Kevin Thurber desired a transition to the C-17s at JB Charleston, like his brother, to be closer to family and pursue a career flying the notorious cargo aircraft. Ultimately, these skills could be used to follow in his father’s footsteps at Delta as well.

“With red tape, the transition out of active duty was extremely difficult, but it was all worth it in the end,” said Kevin. “The only person holding you back is yourself.”

After long-awaited approval, fate had it that the two brothers would serve in the same reserve squadron.

“The Thurber brothers both have phenomenal personalities and bring tremendous talent to the 300 AS,” Pool said. “They are always offering a helping hand.”

Serving alongside family is a unique experience, but being able to see your brother at work within the same squadron is one-of-a-kind.

“I’m happy to be able to share all the missions, memories and squadron stories with my brother,” Matt Thurber said. “It’s unique to be able to work toward the same goals”

Flying the C-17 and being in the same squadron has brought them closer than ever. As their aircraft transitioned from fighters to cargo with the C-17 in the same squadron, flying missions such as holiday airdrops have brought them closer in brotherhood.

With Matt Thurber’s refined mentoring skills and Kevin Thurber’s hard-charging intellect, the Thurber brothers look forward to growing their family values in the 300 AS as “brothers in arms.” The Thurber brothers believe family is important and you can achieve what you set your mind to, it's all about putting in the work.

“Work hard in school, get your flight experience, never give up,” Kevin Thurber added, “and you will achieve your goals.”