Sunday, November 15, 2020

Lieutenant JG Steven Agudelo: A passion for flying

Former Dacula resident Steven Agudelo, now deeply entrenched in helicopter training at Naval Air Station North Island in Southern California, admits that growing up he never thought much about flying.

“I initially wanted to be a professional soccer player,” said Agudelo, 24, and a 2014 graduate of Dacula High School. “I wanted to play soccer my whole life, but my dad, who was a cyclist, was tough on us about professional sports. When I was in high school in Dacula, he suggested I would not make it as a pro soccer player, so I should think about another career.”

Recently promoted to Lieutenant JG, Agudelo said his family’s proximity to Gwinnett County Airport at Briscoe Field stoked his interest in flying. He experienced his first flight as part of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s program for young people and he hung around at the airport and worked for pilots, who eventually paid for Agudelo to first earn his license to fly.

“They do something regularly – any kid can go and take a ride,” he said. “That’s where I got my first exposure. And they also have a youth building program. For every 10 hours you volunteered, you got an hour of flight training. That would be stored up.

“I’d be there every Saturday working on the planes until I had enough hours, so they basically paid for me to get my initial pilot’s license. I was very fortunate in that sense.”

Agudelo decided that the best course of action to respond to his passion for flying was to go to college and join the military. After a long and competitive program involving both Georgia State and Georgia Tech that rounded him into tip-top shape both physical and academically, Agudelo graduated from Georgia State with a 4.0 GPA and had earned a scholarship through Georgia Tech’s NROTC program.

But initially getting denied for the NROTC scholarship changed his entire outlook on life, Agudelo said.

“In high school, I wasn’t the most amazing student,” he said. “I wanted to be a professional soccer player, so I wasn’t studying to the level that I should have. I was kind of putting everything off to the side. Then the biggest thing that happened was when I applied my senior year of high school for the scholarship. Getting denied was a huge life-changer.

“The work ethic I learned from not getting what I wanted initially helped me a lot. By the time I finished college, I was the No. 1 physics student at Georgia State.”

Now flying M860 Romeo helicopters in San Diego, Agudelo was trained at naval bases in Florida and Texas and expects to be dispatched in the spring to Naval Station Rota in Spain. He was one of three pilots chosen to go to Spain.

“Everyone wanted Rota, the best-case situation, you spend a year to a year and a half in San Diego and then you get to go to Rota for two or three years,” he said. “I winged in May and between January and May only three of us got the slots. It’s a brand-new squadron, so everyone was putting in first so the chances were low, but I got very lucky and I think it will be a lot of fun.”

A native of Colombia, Agudelo is about to put all of his training and ability into practice in San Diego.

“I once asked one of the pilots at Briscoe what the hardest thing a pilot can do was and he said landing on the back of a ship on a moonless night is the hardest thing any pilot can do; and from there I decided that was what I wanted to do,” Agudelo said. “I get to do that in a couple of weeks, landing on my first ship. It’s amazing. It takes a lot of training to get to that point and they always talk about it and all this build-up training is for that moment. Now it’s coming to fruition.

“It’s going to be cool and I’m going to have a lot of fun with it and I’m looking forward to it.”

In addition to his academic and military schooling, Agudelo and several friends – including Tevin Shaw, a 2014 graduate of Norcross High whom Agudelo met through the NROTC program – got involved in public service by establishing the informal “20 for 20” program, where the students would pool their money each month and provide some much-needed financial help to needy individuals in Atlanta.

“My passion is flying, but doing stuff like (“20 for 20”), that is important and I continue to do it,” said Agudelo, who gave a TEDx talk at Georgia State in 2017 on the subject.

1 comment:

  1. not mentioned, yet I'd suggest he's likely multilingual, which surely helped in his posting to Rota, Spain ..