Early influence helps Aberdeen native fly high as fighter squadron commander

U.S. Air Force Col. Peter Milohnic, 18th Operations Group commander, presents the guidon to Lt. Col. Michael Rowe, 44th Fighter Squadron commander, during a change of command ceremony on Kadena Air Base, Japan, July 12, 2013. Rowe was the director of operations for the 44th FS before assuming command. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman E. N. Jacobs/Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Peter Milohnic, 18th Operations Group commander, presents the guidon to Lt. Col. Michael Rowe, 44th Fighter Squadron commander, during a change of command ceremony on Kadena Air Base, Japan, July 12, 2013. Rowe was the director of operations for the 44th FS before assuming command. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman E. N. Jacobs/Released)

By Ray Van Dusen/Monroe Journal

ABERDEEN – The way his mother describes it, there was one definitive moment that really helped mold Lt. Col. Scott Rowe’s future.

“Mr. [John] Curlee and I were eating lunch at school one day when Scott was in ninth grade and he asked if Scott had ever thought about going to a military academy. I’ll never forget him for planting the seed,” said Barbara Ann Rowe.

Ask his father, Don, and he recalls a time three years before that when Scott’s teacher, Jeanette Atkins, encouraged him to apply for the Student Space Station Workshop at Jackson’s Davis Planetarium. Chosen as one of 31 of 500 Mississippi students vying for a spot, Scott was rewarded a set of wings pinned on his chest by astronaut Frederick Gregory, served as an experiment operator on a staged space mission and earned an early appreciation of the atmosphere above.

“He was always really focused and always excelled in class. Scott always did the best he could do and we never had to push him,” Don said.

In his school days, baseball coaches like Charlie Smith, Gary Carter, Wes Johnson, Butch Thompson and Lewis Earnest all had faith in his athletic abilities. Juggling an ongoing love for baseball and a couple of spurts of high school football, Scott knew when to draw priorities.

“I loved sports growing up and still do so I probably had dreams of being a professional baseball player along with being a doctor or a lawyer [growing up]. As I learned more about the military academies, the discipline and the free education really appealed to me. I only actually applied to three schools – the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy and West Point, so I was pretty determined to go that route,” Scott said.

Don said Scott played football in 10th and 12th grade, but didn’t his junior year because he wanted to focus on his ACT scores so he could get into the academy.

Before sitting in the cockpit of a fighter jet was a desire, the Naval Academy was Scott’s first original ambition.

“Mr. and Mrs. Dodds had a son, Frank Dodds, who went to the Naval Academy years before I was in high school and I remember going over to their house to hear about his experiences. They encouraged me to apply and gave me a lot of good information about what to expect,” Scott said.

He had been accepted to all three academies and had pretty well settled on the Naval Academy based on the influence of the Dodds family.

“I took a trip to Annapolis and enjoyed it, but John and Beth Lord, Ladye King’s daughter, insisted that I visit the Air Force Academy before making a decision. John took me out there and I was sold as soon as I saw the mountains,” Scott said.

Since graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1998, Scott has been stationed at Eglin, Nellis, Elmendorf and Tyndell Air Force bases; served as an instructor pilot in F-15C training, earned a spot at the U.S. Air Force’s weapons school at Nellis Air Force Base; and spent two years in the 19th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base.

Among other career attributes, he has lead operations for 27 F-15C aircraft, ensured combat readiness for 39 pilots and managed an annual Flying-Hour program consisting of more than 4,000 sorties among his long list of accomplishments.

On July 12, his military career achieved a new milestone as Scott was named commander of the 44th Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

“We’ve always been patriotic people, but there was something about that ceremony. Another commander’s wife and a general both told me the enormity of this honor and how many other people would do anything to get it,” Barbara Ann said.

The U.S. Air Force has only three active duty F-15C squadrons in the world – two in Okinawa and one in England. Scott had most recently served as director of operations of the 44th Fighter Squadron. His squadron was recognized as the number one air-to-air squadron in the U.S. Air Force and was awarded the prestigious Raytheon Trophy in 2012. This honor is reserved for the top air superiority or air defense squadron in the Air Force.

“Being a squadron commander means a lot. Lindsey and I are responsible for taking care of around 40 people who have signed up to defend the nation. They are thousands of miles from their homes, working long hours with little pay. They do this job because they feel like they owe something back to our great nation and the opportunities being an American provides. Being able to have a positive influence on them is extremely rewarding,” Scott said.

As Barbara Ann said, it truly takes a village and she attributes Scott’s teachers and coaches at the Aberdeen School District and the local community for being an early influence in making his highly commended military career possible.

“Living and growing up in Aberdeen gave me all the tools I needed for this new job. The town has always been supportive and encouraged me and I learned the value of hard work and preparation from my family and the people of Aberdeen, Scott said.

“I’m sure everybody is proud of his accomplishments and it proves anybody from a small town can succeed as long as you have that inner drive,” Don said.