The Valdosta Daily Times
Before we talk about Jim Galloway's long and storied career in the Air Force, you have to know that his service, his career — it's not about him.
“I never thought that it was ever about me,” said Galloway. “It was about something larger than me and I was a part of this overall thing. My part of it was to keep the sky clear of enemy fighters, so that our people on the ground didn't have to worry about someone attacking them from the air.”
Galloway had a nearly 30-year career with the Air Force, but if you want to get to the true beginning of it, then you have to go back to Spring Break.
Galloway, a freshman at Western Kentucky University, was majoring in biology and chemistry with his eye set on becoming a doctor. A couple of the guys he studied with proposed going to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. for Spring Break, a long, long drive from Kentucky. But, one of his friend's fathers owned a Bonanza, a six-seat, single-engine airplane and the guy had his pilot's license. So the three of them crammed into the plane and spent a week on the beach.
“On the way back, I had decided whatever I did with my life was going to involve airplanes,” said Galloway.
After landing back in Kentucky, Galloway went straight to his local airport, signing up for flying lessons.
It took some convincing, but eventually Galloway and his dad struck a deal: if Galloway promised to finish college, he could use his college money to take flying lessons.
Galloway skipped fall semester that year, taking flight lessons and earning his licenses. In a year, he went from never having flown to having a commercial pilot's license.
True to his word, Galloway went back to school, taking classes every other day towards a degree in aerospace technology and spending the other days working as a pilot.
He worked his way to graduation, and afterwards, started looking into becoming an airline pilot.
“I talked to all the airline pilots I could and almost to a person, they were all former military pilots.”
So, two years out of college, Galloway signed up with the Air Force, with an eye towards getting out in seven or eight years to become a commercial pilot.
After pilot training in Columbus, Miss., Galloway graduated at the top of his class. In college, he had become interested in the F-15 Eagle, an aircraft with more horse power than the starting lineup of the Indianapolis 500.
“The F-15 was available, so I put it down as my number one choice. From the time you start pilot training to the time you show up to your first base, it's about two years. You train the whole time.”
Assigned to Langley AFB in Virginia for his first assignment, Galloway fell in love with flying F-15s.
“That was the hottest, latest thing the Air Force had in its inventory.”
Galloway had to stay in for seven years to pay back the Air Force for their training investment in him. At the end of that seven years, Galloway and his wife had to make a decision: whether to stay in the Air Force or leave for commercial work.
“A lot of my friends were getting out and going with the airlines. I was just enjoying what I was doing, more so than I thought I would flying straight and level from place to place.”
After deciding to stay in, Galloway, his wife and two daughters were part of an exchange tour with the Royal Air Force in Britain, with Galloway flying an F-3 Tornado.
While there his wife gave birth to their son.
“I actually went to the First Gulf War with the British. Our job was to patrol where Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia joined in order to keep the Iraqis to keep from coming any further south.”
When he left England in '92, Galloway found himself pinballed across the world: the Pentagon, Okinawa, Japan, back to London, back to Okinawa, Valdosta, Montgomery, Ala. As he moved, he moved up the ranks of senior officials.
“As you get more senior...the less flying you do.”
But while he was doing less flying, Galloway found a lot of pleasure in watching the people under him grow and learn.
“It was about them. I tried to do my part to make them flourish so they could succeed.”
And his family found a lot of pleasure in Valdosta. When Galloway was assigned to Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, his family stayed here, with Galloway commuting every week. When he retired, he retired to here, becoming the General Manager for the Valdosta Regional Airport.
It's a long journey, one that found Galloway entering the Air Force over 30 years ago with an eye towards getting in some jet time before leaving for the commercial world and found him leaving the Air Force only after decades of work, with his only regret being that he had to leave. He went from a rookie pilot to a professional pilot to a man who focused his energies on helping others achieve their own potential.
“I was extremely fortunate. All of my assignments were wonderful, the people I worked with were wonderful. The only regret was that it came time that I had to retire.”
“I was just so glad to be a part of it...My experience was quite different from a lot of people. I think it's important to understand that everyone's experience in the military is different. For lack of a better word, mine was fairly charmed. And I understand. My hat is off to the folks who are down there on the ground, up close and personal...I don't want to take away from that at all.”