Sunday, May 11, 2014

Pilot ranked among 'best and brightest'

Lawrence and Joyce Brodeur of Sutton recall their son dreaming of becoming a pilot at a young age. Maj. David L. Brodeur realized the dream when he graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1999. 

 "David was one of those guys who was larger than life," said Col. Scott P. Manning, 49, who was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force when he met the Auburn native as he stepped off the plane at Prince Sultan Air Base, near Riyadh, in early March 2003.

Maj. Brodeur, a 1994 Auburn High School graduate and honor student, was in the 77th Fighter Squadron in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and was a senior pilot with more than 1,600 hours in fighter aircraft.

Col. Manning, Maj. Brodeur's commanding officer in Saudi Arabia, is an adjunct professor of Aerospace Studies and commander of the two-year-old ROTC program at Yale University. He flew at least a dozen missions with Maj. Brodeur during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"David was a very gifted pilot, " Col. Manning said. "He picked up on things very quickly and I always felt very confident when I flew on missions he planned."

"He would have been a colonel and a general by his early 40s. He had a great career ahead of him. He really was one of the country's best and brightest, " Col. Manning added.

Maj. Brodeur was an instructor pilot and an aggressor pilot with the 18th Aggressor Squadron based at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.

Aggressor pilots act as enemy pilots in mock conflicts; their role is to prepare American pilots for enemy tactics in a real-life conflict.

"Only the best pilots become instructor pilots and only the best instructor pilots become aggressor pilots," said. Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, who was in charge of all military operations in Alaska when Maj. Brodeur became his executive officer shortly before he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011.

"It is fair to say that David was a very accomplished pilot," said Lt. Gen. Atkins, who is president of Chronicle Media in Augusta, Ga.

Maj. Brodeur's wife, Susan, and the couple's two children, Elizabeth, 10 and David Jr., 7, live in Colorado. Mr. Brodeur said his daughter-in-law told him it was too soon to talk with a reporter.

Lt. Gen. Atkins assigned Maj. Brodeur's best friend, Maj. Mark A. Rodemoyer, to be the Air Force liaison to Susan Brodeur and the children.

"They're doing the best they can under the circumstances," said Maj. Rodemoyer, a former F-15 pilot who now is a B-2 pilot with the Missouri Air National Guard.

"Lizzie and David Jr. are getting more involved in various activities."

Maj. Brodeur's exploits as a pilot and time as an adviser to the Afghan Air Force prompted the Air Force Academy class of 2016 to name him as their exemplar.

The Cadet Exemplar Program is a way for each Air Force Academy class to honor and identify with "a past military giant," according to information provided by the academy.

The other finalist for 2016 exemplar was astronaut Neil Armstrong. Other AFA exemplars include Orville Wright, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, Brigadier Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell, and Lt. Col. and astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom.

"David's family is very proud of that," said Kathleen Polanowicz, district director and general counsel for U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, about the exemplar honor.

"There is no question that David is a hero," said Mr. McGovern.

Story and photo:

Air Force Major David L. Brodeur, who was killed in a gun attack in Aprill 2011 in Afghanistan, poses by his jet in an undated photo.