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NEWS | May 31, 2024

Retired Army Soldier receives master aviator wings

By Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jackson U.S. Army Reserve Command

Nearly 45 years after his last flight, retired Lt. Col. James R. Schrum received his master aviator wings at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, on May 28, 2024.

Maj. Gen. Eugene "Gene" LeBoeuf, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Reserve Command, hosted the ceremony, which was attended by friends, family and Soldiers at the command’s headquarters.

LeBoeuf spoke about the efforts of many attendees to make the event a reality and expressed appreciation to Schrum.

“Thank you for your service to our great nation, which paved the way for ours,” LeBoeuf said.

The master aviator wings are coveted by aviators for the rigorous requirements for achievement, including at least 15 years of rated aviation time.

LeBoeuf then turned the proceedings over to Brig. Gen. Lance Calvert, director of the USARC G-3/5/7 and himself an aviator, who presented the badge to Schrum.

"This is one of the most wonderful things that could happen to me,” said Schrum after being pinned. “I thought at best I'd get something in the mail.”

Now 86, Schrum is a decorated aviator, having served three tours in Vietnam while logging more than 2,900 flight hours. His 20-year career spanned from 1960 to 1980, serving in various positions including as a procurement officer and aviation material management officer.

As he stood in Marshall Hall to collect his thoughts, he realized his military service had come full circle.
“I did a lot of things in my career,” he recalled, “but it all started here at Fort Bragg in 1960.” Fort Liberty was previously named Fort Bragg.

Schrum’s interest in receiving his upgraded flight status began in 2023 when he learned the Army updated its qualification standards for the badge. He worked on his own to have his records corrected, but after several failed attempts, Schrum reached out to U.S. Army Reserve Command, where its Aviation Directorate ultimately championed his cause.

Schrum pointed to his Stetson, a traditional piece of headgear associated with the cavalry, and came to a long-awaited decision.

“I've had this guardian angel pin on my Stetson since Vietnam, and I never gave her a name,” he said while looking toward Master Sgt. Esther Cordoba, one of the Soldiers who worked to make the ceremony possible. “Well, today, I will name her Esther.”

“I was just doing my job,” said Cordoba, a flight operations noncommissioned officer in the Army Reserve Aviation Directorate. “We worked with the Army’s Human Resources Command and the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Novosel to ensure that Mr. Schrum was properly recognized.”

As the assembled crowd stood in ovation, Schrum concluded his remarks by saying, “This is without a doubt the highlight of my retired career.”