World traveler

Alumnus flies C-17 aircraft for the U.S. Air Force


Few people can say they’ve been to each of the seven continents. Even fewer can say they flew there themselves.

Maj. Brian Dodson (BBA ’02) is one of the few. A pilot in the U.S. Air Force, Dodson flies Boeing C-17s, large military transport planes.

Dodson was commissioned into the Air Force as a second lieutenant the day he graduated from Georgia. He graduated in the top 10 percent of his class from flight school and was able to choose which aircraft he would fly.

“My dad was in the Air Force too, and I remember him telling me that if I chose to go fly for Air Mobility Command, I would get to see the world,” Dodson says.

He started his first C-17 assignments in Charleston, S.C., completing missions that took him across the Atlantic. He also worked as an executive officer for a squadron commander, taking on leadership roles and responsibilities. After five years in Charleston, Dodson was reassigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash., where he flew similar missions, serving the Pacific area and working as a flight commander. As his father told him, he has been able to see the world.

“I’ve done everything you can possibly think of in a C-17, and it’s taken me all around the world,” he says, noting his favorite stops—Argentina, Kenya, South Africa and New Zealand.

He’s even been to Antarctica, where he runs supply missions for Operation Deep Freeze, flying in equipment, supplies and personnel.

“It’s a surreal moment when you fly in and touch down on an ice runway,” he says. “It was one of the coolest missions.”

Many of Dodson’s missions are airdrops, in which he delivers supplies to ground-based units.

“The scariest, but yet coolest mission was an airdrop in Afghanistan, in these valleys between really high terrain, ” he says. His plane descended to a couple of thousand feet with mountains on either side. He made the drop, then had to make an aggressive climb to clear the cliffs.

“Flying is just part of it, though. I’ve been really fortunate to do a lot of cool things in the C-17,” Dodson says. “I flew Vice President Biden to the first match of the 2010 World Cup in Pretoria, South Africa.” He also has flown the secretary of state and the secretary of defense.

His latest missions, however, have him on the ground. Dodson is an instructor at the Squadron Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., where he will remain for a couple of years before returning to missions.

“It’s a stark change from what I’ve been doing. But at the same time, I bring a lot of experience, so I’m looking forward to it,” he says. “But I’ll always love flying.”