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Passing the Baton Across Generations

LTC Arthur Trujillo and CWO Jess Findley looking at the hole ripped in their UH-1 Helicopter after a flight into Tran Dai, RVN in April of 1971

Lt. Col. Paul “Truman” Trujillo, USAF (Ret.) had wanted to join the military for as long as he could remember. Inspired by his dad, LTC Arthur Trujillo, USA (Ret.), a Huey pilot who also served as a Green Beret, an attraction to military service was present from an early age. Sons Lt. Zach Trujillo, USAF and Cadet Jacob Trujillo also shared an innate desire to be part of something greater than themselves and have followed family tradition, with careers beginning at the United States Air Force Academy.

Originally, Lt. Col. Trujillo had a desire to go Army by pursuing an appointment at West Point and a career in Special Forces. According to Truman, “God works in mysterious ways,” as his father, LTC Trujillo had advised him to go Air Force and ultimately, he received an appointment to the Air Force Academy instead. With his vision disqualifying him from an aviation rating, the plan was to get a biochemistry degree and go to medical school.

As fate would have it, a friend advised Truman to go see a retired optometrist who was trying some new exercises with bifocals and notecards with small letters to get up to 20/70 vision. Going into the flight physical senior year, Lt. Col. Trujillo didn’t have a great feeling about his chances, but he squeaked by at 20/70 and after a little stink eye from the female doc, heard “you’re pilot qualified, get out of here.”

With that magical phrase, the desire to be a pilot was planted. He would go on to earn one of the limited 250 slots available to members of his class following the Gulf War drawdown and ultimately go on to fly C-130s.

After graduation, Lt. Col. Trujillo went to pilot training in the T-37 at Reese AFB. As the number one guy coming out of the T-37, he had the choice to go T-38s and pursue a career flying fighters or opt for the T-1 and end up flying heavies. After some conversations with fighter pilots, Truman made the last second decision to go with the T-1. With a cutback in pilots coming through the T-1 program, rather than wait one to three years to fly, Lt. Col. Trujillo opted to become an instructor pilot in the T-37 at Reese AFB with a C-130 follow-on.

Lt. Col. Trujillo’s first student as a FAIP was a Captain who struggled in the aircraft. After nearly stalling the aircraft three times, Truman had to hook the student and fail him, and unfortunately, that Captain ended up washing out. Following the incident, a sickle mysteriously appeared behind Truman’s desk.

Reflecting on his career in the Herc, he stated “It’s not a pretty aircraft or a fast aircraft, but it always took care of me.”

Lt. Trujillo would end up following in his father’s footsteps. From an early age, Zach idolized his grandfather LTC Arthur Trujillo and his stories of flying the Huey. A five-letter varsity athlete with a desire to get in on the action and be out front, he started applying to USAFA as a junior in high school. He received an appointment, and after Lasik helped him overcome the same vision issue that Lt. Col. Trujillo experienced, medically qualified for a pilot slot. In his senior year at the Academy, he was the 3rd Group commander which helped him get into the highly competitive ENJJPT. Following ENJJPT, he also became a FAIP and loved his experience at PIT and will go on to fly fighters.

Cadet Jacob Trujillo, the youngest of the family, idolized his brother Zach and explored several options in his keen desire to serve. Now a freshman cadet at USAFA, his goal is to serve as a Combat Rescue Officer. The family business is in good hands as the baton has been passed across three generations. Both Lt. Col. Paul Trujillo and his son Lt. Zach Trujillo are Daedalians, tying their family and aviation history together in a unique and living way.