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Monica (Shaneyfelt) and Maj. Louis Conklin, USAF (both ’11)
Monica (Shaneyfelt) and Maj. Louis Conklin, USAF (both ’11)


After eight years of working as a weapons system officer on the F-15E strike fighter, Maj. Louis Conklin, USAF (’11), is strapping into the pilot’s seat.

“I’ve just graduated from pilot training,” he writes. “Up to now, I’ve been a ‘back-seater,’ like Goose from Top Gun. I liked the job and really enjoyed being in a fighter squadron, but I wanted to be a pilot.” Men of Maj. Conklin’s age typically don’t make this transition, and his wife, Monica (Shaneyfelt ’11), is thrilled: “I’m so proud of Lou for working so hard in pilot training and getting his No. 1 choice!”

Maj. Conklin cites his time at Thomas Aquinas College with helping him to balance his vocational obligations with service to his country. “The format of the TAC education deeply influenced my ability to play multiple roles as a husband, father, service-member, and Catholic, and to balance those roles in a stressful environment,” he says. “That way I can maintain a healthy balance in what can otherwise become a completely engrossing lifestyle.”

Having completed his training at the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program in Wichita Falls, Texas, Maj. Conklin is now working to complete combat certification in Goldsboro, North Carolina. “My days consist of training flights and simulators,” he explains. “The majority of the time is spent on brief and debrief, so a typical flight of 1.5 hours can be a 6-8 hour affair!” Even with that hefty training regimen, it will still be upward of a year before he is certified to fly combat missions.

Yet Maj. Conklin enjoys the steps along the way, because he has found that excellence comes by way of a disciplined embrace of the “small things” in life. “I remember studying Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and realizing that happiness can’t be achieved without discipline, which I was aware I didn’t have,” he says. Noticing that defect prompted him to consider military service: “It seemed an appealing way to acquire discipline, and I began applying to the Air Force as a direct result of that course.”

Maj. Conklin continues to pursue that discipline as he and Mrs. Conklin raise their three sons in North Carolina — in whose skies the pilot will be testing his mettle in the following months.