Alumnus Soars With F-16 Jets In Pakistan

Brian Gerwe in an F-16 jet.

Brian Gerwe in an F-16 jet.

As an exchange officer for the United States Air Force (USAF) and F-16 instructor pilot, Brian Gerwe, ’99, spends his days flying jets and living out the dreams of many. Currently embedded in the Pakistani air force, Gerwe’s mission is to support the interests of the United States and Pakistan to enhance the goals associated with Operation Enduring Freedom, which is the official name used by U.S. government officials for the war in Afghanistan. After growing up in New Symrna Beach, Gerwe made the choice to attend Daytona State College, formerly Daytona Beach Community College, for his first two years of college. Upon receiving his A.A. degree, Gerwe transferred to the University of Central Florida to earn his bachelor’s degree in political science with a focus on international relations. Gerwe says there’s no harm in starting out at a community college as he still ended up flying USAF F-16 jets, just like Air Force Academy graduates.

How has your UCF degree helped you in your career?

My degree has been particularly helpful during coalition or exchange types of exercises and assignments. Having a basic understanding of the ideals of the foreign government(s) with which you are working can help in relating to, or at least avoiding the tendency to impose American ideals, which could at times be counterproductive. Since all societies are not governed in the same way as the United States, understanding the history and national ideals of foreign peers is a necessity.

Were you involved in any extracurricular activities at UCF?

Air Force ROTC program and intramural sports.

Have you stayed connected with UCF since graduation? If so, how?

Not as much as I’d like. I was able to attend a football game in the Bounce House once, but a military career filled with frequent moves and deployments makes it challenging.

What is your best UCF memory?

The first day on campus easily. I drove over to see the campus and also the Air Force ROTC unit, which I wasn’t committed to yet. I spent a few hours seeing the place, talking to students, etc. I left that day deciding to pursue a degree in political science with an international relations focus and a commitment to the USAF. I never looked back.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

It is impossible to have just one, but I suppose I still giggle like a schoolgirl every time I do an afterburner take off with an unrestricted climb. The power of the afterburning jet engine, and the acceleration from a dead stop to 400+ knots, while screaming away from the ground at sometimes rocket-like trajectories, is something that will never get old.

What is your most memorable experience on the job?

Without going into too many specifics, I’ll simply say anything that is combat related carries with it memories that last a lifetime. Knowing that you are risking your life to shape the events of history is something I think all of my peers desire to do.

What piece of advice would you give to current students as well as UCF alumni?

Bottom line, there is no substitute for a proper education. Additionally, learning doesn’t end when you have achieved your desired degree, it is truly a lifelong endeavor. While formal schooling is typically a necessary pathway to adult success, educational limits are in your own hands, and the responsibility of continued development falls solely on each individual’s shoulders.

What is one word you are guilty of using too often?

Perhaps, Perhaps?

What is the last thing you searched for on Google?

NFL draft projections, of course. Go Knights! What a year! I may be deployed, and in a location where UCF has never been heard of, but I still represent!

What is one thing that drives you absolutely crazy?

People that expect things to just be given to them. I’ve been to many different places in the world where daily life for people is strikingly different than the life we enjoy in the United States. Hard work and determination can carry an individual, or a nation, quite far. Dreams and goals are necessary for personal and societal advancement, but even more crucial is for each individual to put the responsibility of success on themselves and go make it happen.

Are you superstitious?

No. If you believe in one superstition, you have to believe in them all and that would be too time consuming

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