Air Force career soaring for former Leon High School football player 

Second lieutenant Anthony Reaves Jr. works on
earning his wings in the Air Force.
Photo submitted
Flying a commercial airplane is a job Anthony Reaves Jr. would like to have after his military career ends.
Photo submitted 

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook Staff Writer 

After boarding a flight to visit family in Texas, Anthony Reaves and his younger brother, Andrew, had the experience of a lifetime. At least it was at the time.

The two young boys from Tallahassee were invited into the cockpit to sit in the pilots’ chairs. The pilots even let them wear their caps for a little while.

Anthony was clearly impacted by what he experienced in the cockpit, although the brothers took different successful career paths. 

After leaving the cockpit, Anthony made his intentions known to his father, Anthony Reaves Sr., who assured him that he could fly planes if it’s what he wanted to do.

“You can do anything you want to do but you’ve got to put your heart in and study hard for it,” the older Reaves recalled telling his son. “And, if you’re going to do it make a commitment and follow through but it takes work to get there.”

Reaves Jr. is on his way, following a path that resembles the route his father took to the military when he served in the Marine Corps. Anthony Jr. is now a 24-year-old commissioned officers in the Air Force and this fall will find out where he will spend the next phase of his career.

For the past 18 months, Reaves has been stationed at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. He recently completed undergraduate pilot training while flying transport planes that are commonly known as heavies. Now that he’s earned an Aircrew Badge or his wings, as the distinction is better known, it marks completion on a necessary step to advance.

Reaves started working on his career path while pursuing a degree in criminal justice at the University of West Florida, where he enrolled after graduating from Leon High School. During his junior year, Reaves joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps and eventually became an officer.

By 2020 when Reaves graduated, he had the rank of second lieutenant, putting him on a fast track in the Air Force. At the time when he moved to Oklahoma, he had a choice of training. With a sense of purpose, he settled on the heavy over becoming a fighter pilot.

“I never really like the fast movers like people see on TV, going really fast and doing all those flips and stuff,” said Reaves. “I had my opportunity to do that. I did it a little (and) it was cool. But I really like the slow movers. I like the aircraft that has crew. I like having the team concept there.

“I eventually want to get to the airlines so flying bigger planes in the Air Force helps me gain my hours and my experience to get to the airlines down the road.”

Reaves is committed to at least 10 years. He plans to do 20, giving himself time to get into the world of commercial flying, he said.

Reaves’ career path isn’t exactly a surprise. His father retired from the Marine Corps in 2000 and soon after started the JROTC program at Leon High School. His two boys became engaged in the leadership education program at different times.

Before his graduation from Leon in 2016, Reaves was a two sport (baseball and football) athlete. He showed a lot of promise in football, but an ankle injury and little interest from recruiters made it easy for him to choose a different career path.

Reaves Sr. didn’t demand much of his sons, only beseeching them to decide on careers, get engaged in volunteerism and whatever they could at their church at Bethel Missionary Baptist. In fact, Reaves Jr. was one of the leaders on an initiative to ship water to Flint, Mich., when the city experienced a lead crisis.

Reaves’ ties to the military as a young man has gotten the attention of more than a few veterans. One of them is Col. Ronald Joe, who made a career in the Army.

As much as word of Reeves’ success gets out, he could become an influence for other young Black men, Joe said.

“He has done a tremendous job in terms of his training and how well he’s joined and become a part of the service that he is in,” Joe said. “What is so important is to see the military that looks like the nation that we are supposed to be a part of. 

“When you can look up the chain and see officers – men or women – who are in your career field who happen to be African American it is inspiring. It tells you that you can make it, too.”

Looking at how far his son has reached, Reaves Sr. couldn’t help harkening back to the day his sons were invited into the cockpit of plane. 

“It funny how things come back full circle,” he said. “You never know what could influence some parts of your life.”


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