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Capt. Andrew Pellegrin
Capt. Andrew Pellegrin getting sprayed down by his wife and son after his final flight in the T-6 at Sheppard Air Force Base. Pellegrin accumulated more than 1,000 hours in the T-6 and his family was there to help him commemorate the event. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Jerred Moon)
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Pilot wings his way to medical school

Posted 5/23/2012   Updated 5/23/2012 Email story   Print story


by Second Lieutenant Jerred Moon
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

5/23/2012 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- Capt. Andrew "Pinto" Pellegrin, 89th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, will soon join one of the smallest and most highly skilled career fields in the Air Force by becoming a pilot-physician, a career field of only 10 Airmen.

According to Col. Derek A. Knight, U.S. Air Force Pilot-Physician Program director, pilot-physicians play a critical role in providing line and medical leaders vital expertise on a variety of operational issues.

Pellegrin said he is interested in becoming a pilot-physician because he feels it will best suit his skills and help him better serve the Air Force.

"I feel the Pilot-Physician Program will be a great culmination of the things that I have learned thus far in the Air Force," he said. "Pilot-physicians are advisors to Air Force leaders in terms of medical and operational policy, and they also deal with the technical aspects of aircraft testing and development."

When Pellegrin first started to pursue this goal, he didn't know how his family would feel, but his wife, Jennifer, was enthused by the idea, and he had the support of his entire family.

"Yes! Let's do it," she said. "Our entire family, including parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, are thrilled."

In order to attend medical school, Pellegrin will have to separate from active duty and suspend his flying status, where he has accumulated more than 1,000 hours of flight time in the T-6A II. Pellegrin will attend Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. Upon graduation he will gain one more year of graduate medical education, a year experience as a flight surgeon and then he will reenter active duty as a commissioned officer in the Air Force Medical Service. Pellegrin will then be reinstated to flying status, making him both a pilot and a physician.

While Pellegrin has not yet started medical school, he is very accustomed to the workload that will be necessary for success. Pellegrin attended the Air Force Academy as a Mechanical Engineering major and was the top graduate of his class. After the Air Force Academy he attended Harvard University and completed his master's in Public Policy.

Next, he was on to undergraduate pilot training at Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training where he earned his wings and went on to become a first assignment instructor pilot. Once Pilot Instructor Training was complete, he started to juggle studying for the Medical College Admission Test, staying current as an instructor pilot, taking the necessary classes to be considered for medical school and balancing his role as a husband and a father.

"I had to use leave time to take classes, wake up early and stay up late, and I have a two-year-old so once he wakes up, studying pretty much stops," he said. "I even did some cross-country flights where I brought along the books, just anytime I had a spare moment."

Jennifer Pellegrin said he always made his family a priority even when he was extremely busy.

"Andrew is a busy man, he typically spends 11 to 12 hours at the squadron each day in order to complete his responsibilities associated with being a flight commander and an instructor," she said. "The kids and I are fortunate, though, that being a present and involved husband and father rank at the top of his priorities."

Pellegrin looks forward to becoming a pilot-physician and serving the Air force in a new way.

"I feel my background will really help me be a better pilot-physician and be more useful to the Air Force."

To learn more about the Pilot-Physician Program, consult the Air Force Instruction 11-405.

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