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Our Next
Dinner Meeting

​​
Gary L. Peppers​​
Lieutenant Colonel, USAF (Ret.)
will be our guest speaker!

​​

October 9th, 5:15 PM

Registration Deadline:
October 5th by noon
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Lt Col Peppers began his military career in the Army in 1971, where he served first as an enlisted helicopter aircrew and later as an Army aviator flying UH-1 and OH-58 helicopters with the Air Cavalry.  He left the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer in 1976 to become a commercial pilot with Petroleum Helicopters, flying offshore oilfield support in the Gulf of Mexico.  He also earned his FAA certificate as a flight instructor in airplanes and taught flying lessons on days off.

At the same time, Col Peppers was pursuing his MBA at the University of Southwest Louisiana in Lafayette.  The school’s Air Force ROTC detachment recruited him and urged him to apply for Air Force pilot Training, just what he’d always dreamed of doing.  After one year of ROTC academics, and with several waivers from the Air Force in hand, Col Peppers was commissioned a second lieutenant in December 1978 and sent to Undergraduate Pilot Training at Columbus AFB, Mississippi.

Lt Peppers reported to pilot training with nearly 3,000 flying hours in his logbooks, including 700 hours as flight instructor.  He already held FAA certificates as a commercial and instrument pilot for both airplanes and helicopters.  And he owned his own airplane, which he used to provide remedial practice in instruments and navigation to some of his UPT classmates who were struggling. 

Lt Peppers’ favorite maxim, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” was well-founded.  He graduated with top honors and earned his dream assignment to fly the F-15 Eagle.  Over the next 20 years, Colonel Peppers was assigned to F-15 squadrons in Arizona, New Mexico, Iceland, and Japan, and he spent six years as an F-15 instructor pilot at Tyndall AFB, FL.  Between those tours he also served as a Forward Air Controller in Germany and California, flying the OV-10 Bronco, in which he was both an instructor pilot and a flight examiner.

Col Peppers spent his final assignment at his UPT alma mater, Columbus AFB, instructing students in the T-38 fighter trainer.  He retired from the Air Force in January 2000 with 26 years of active duty and, despite his age of 48, was hired by United Air Lines to fly Boeing 727s and 737s as a first officer.

Following the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, the airline industry collapsed, United along with it.  By the time Col Peppers “fell off the bottom of the seniority ladder,” as he puts it, in March 2004, he and his wife Carol had built a home in Cape Coral.  For the next five years he flew airplanes and helicopters for an air charter company at Page Field, becoming their Chief Pilot in 2008.

In 2009, the Secretary of the Air Force ordered Col Peppers back to active duty for one more tour.  Ten years after he thought he had retired, he reported for duty at Creech AFB, Nevada to begin training to fly the MQ-1B Predator combat drone.  Assigned to the 15th Attack Squadron, Col Peppers flew Predator missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the Persian Gulf, and other hot spots in the Middle East. He also spent long shifts serving as an operations supervisor for his unit’s around the clock combat employment.  In July 2011, he deployed to Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily where he assumed command of the 324th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, tasked with providing the Predator surveillance and attack missions flown into Libya during Operation Unified Protector, the NATO campaign to oust Muammar Qaddafi.  Col Peppers reverted to retired status—finally and for good—in May of 2013.

Col Peppers is a command pilot with over 14,000 career flying hours, nearly 4,000 of that in military combat aircraft.  He holds advanced degrees in business administration and in national security studies.  He and Carol have three sons, the youngest of whom  is also a fighter pilot, flying the F-35B as a major in the Marine Corps.