If you were to ask Winton Woods Class of 2014 Alum Eric Behrendt what he wanted to be in middle school, he would have said without hesitation a black hawk pilot. Now, 10 years later, his dream has come true. “It was an intense process,” said Behrendt. “It’s definitely something you have to go get.” Time, dedication, and perseverance are just a few of the things it took to achieve this goal, not to mention aviation is extremely competitive. During the beginning of his application process, he visited four programs in different states to prepare for this opportunity. After a comprehensive board interview and an inordinate amount of paperwork, he was accepted into two of the elite programs and he elected to attend Fort Rucker, Alabama to begin training at the US Army Aviation Center of Excellence.
First Lieutenant Behrendt has flown over 80 times and has logged in over 130 hours of flying experience but he wasn’t always in training. In 2019, Eric graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in civil engineering where he was part of the ROTC program for the duration of his college career. His interest to fly started when he was 8 years old after seeing a black hawk helicopter at a base unit where his father worked as a German linguist, first in the army and later the national guard. Believe or not, Eric’s favorite show was M*A*S*H (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital), a Korean War comedy. He thought the helicopters used for the medical evaluations in the show were “so cool.”
During his flight training, he recalls his most exciting and memorable experience was when his Basic Warfighter Skills instructor let him fly through trees. “I’d only been flying for 3 or 4 months,” said Behrendt. “I had their lives in my hands and they trusted me. It was a really great feeling. Everything I’d dreamed of was happening.” When asked why he wanted to be a pilot he mentioned the unlimited freedom. He would often daydream about what it would be like to be in the cockpit maneuvering this remarkable aircraft, and when he obtained his goal, it was everything he imagined. “I had a general idea of what it would be like because I thought about it so much and watched so many videos.
“I think it’s amazing to fly around. To put yourself in a position where you can see the world from a new perspective. In a helicopter you really have to maneuver it well and feel your way around the air. It’s like an extension of yourself,” said Behrendt. “I was always fascinated seeing videos of hurricane efforts with the national guard picking people up out of the water and off of roofs. It’s an amazing thing to have the skills to possibly save someone’s life.”
His graduation ceremony was broadcasted live on the Fort Rucker Facebook page for those unable to attend and family members who wanted to watch. His parents were in attendance. “We knew it was a lifelong dream for him. It was wonderful to see his dreams come true,” said his mother and Winton Woods guidance secretary Diana Behrendt. Lieutenant Behrendt graduated with 30 other pilots who he considered some of his closest friends. “You spend so much time together, you can’t help but become close.” His National Guard duties are one weekend a month and 96 flight hours a year.
His last remark to his fellow Warriors: “I am super grateful I had that recurring dream young.
It made it easy to persevere. I encourage everyone to have a goal along with a dream they can hold on to. Having clear goals will keep them on track better than anything else. Never give up. If it’s constantly on your mind, you have to believe there is a way to turn it into reality. Find a way, and go get it. You are just as capable as anyone else. You can do anything, and always remember, you are a Warrior!”
PHOTO CAPTION: Eric Behrendt is surrounded by family after receiving his wings. Shown left to right is brother Nicholas Behrendt, mother Diana Behrendt, and father Jeff Behrendt.