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Texas Airman named as AETC High Flyer

Lt. Col. Bryan Carlson, an F-16 Fighting Falcon instructor pilot assigned to the Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, poses with his 2017 High Flyer of the Year award (for F-16 pilots) at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Kelly Field Annex, Texas, Nov. 30, 2017.(Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Mindy Bloem)

Lt. Col. Bryan Carlson, an F-16 Fighting Falcon instructor pilot assigned to the Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, poses with his 2017 High Flyer of the Year award (for F-16 pilots) at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Kelly Field Annex, Texas, Nov. 30, 2017. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Mindy Bloem)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- A 149th Fighter Wing instructor pilot here was recently honored for winning the 2017 Air Education and Training Command's High Flyer of the Year individual award in the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft category.

The 149th nominated Lt. Col. Bryan Carlson, an F-16 instructor pilot, for this annual recognition that pays tribute to those exceptional individuals or teams whose efforts produce highly qualified aircrew for the Air Force.

“(The award) means I flew the most sorties of anyone in our F-16 unit,” said Carlson.

In his 20 years of military service with the Air Force, 11 years on active duty and the remainder with the Air National Guard, Carlson has flown the F-16 for 19 of those years. The pilot and instructor calls his job fun and rewarding.

“All of the sorties that I have flown over the last 9 1/2 years have been student sorties,” said Carlson. “It’s no longer about me. It’s about teaching (the students) which I find really fun. To be able to take kids who just graduated from pilot’s training and within seven months train them to where they can leave our training squadron and go into combat is very rewarding.”

Col. Raul Rosario, 149th Operations Group commander, said Carlson is worthy of this recent honor. “Lt. Col. Bryan Carlson is an outstanding Airman and instructor pilot,” said Rosario adding Carlson is one of the best instructor pilots he’s had the honor to serve with and that Carlson truly exemplifies the 149th FW’s vision of "uncompromised excellence and mission dominance.”

This year alone, Carlson has flown over 130 missions.

“I’m within six hours of 3,000 hours which is kind of a neat milestone to be able to reach,” Carlson said.

He added that the F-16 gives the pilot control of the aircraft.

“It allows you to fly. It doesn’t allow you to do things automatically,” said Carlson.

Carlson comes from a family of fighter pilots. His grandfather, father and brother were also fighter pilots. Carlson said he always knew he wanted to do the same.

“We have a long line of pilots – specifically fighter pilots – in my family, which is fun for us to get together and share stories,” he said.

There could be another Carlson waiting in the wings for his chance to be a fighter pilot as well. Carlson’s youngest son, a sophomore in high school, wants to be a pilot. Carlson hopes his son will feel as fortunate as he does serving his country.

As for the future, Carlson said he’s going to enjoy every minute of it.

“I do love flying airplanes. That is an absolute thrill,” said Carlson.