Taking to the Skies

Published 10:30 am Saturday, November 11, 2023

Colonel Jamey Wright knew he wanted to be a pilot from the time he was young. 

“All I’ve ever wanted to do was fly airplanes,” Wright said. “To me, there was a mystique about it. I loved going to Atlanta airport and just sitting there watching airplanes.”

Growing up in Valley, most of the inspirational figures to draw from were military pilots, including his grandfather, Staff Sergeant William Wright, who also served in the Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

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His personal hero was Major General John White of the Air National Guard, a family friend growing up who would later commission Wright into the Air Force.

“I remember when he would fly around Valley, which would be a baseball practice or football or something. And I would just stop the practice to watch the airplane,” Wright said.

He and his wife, Jennifer Holly Wright, a native of Valley and alum of Springwood School, dated throughout high school and went to college together. After graduating from Valley High, he started at Auburn University in the US Air Force ROTC (Reserves Officer’ Training Corp) program. He graduated with a degree in Aviation Management and was commissioned that same day in 1999.

Then began a series of moves for the Wrights, typical of a military family.  

His active duty career was spent at bases around the country, including Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia to Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi, which was where he did his pilot training. When he finished his training, he and his wife moved to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, where their first of three sons was born. The base is only an hour away from New York City.

“That’s when September 11th happened, which changed everything drastically,” Wright said.

Wright was deployed a week later. He would have 13 deployments in total throughout his career. Most of the deployments were in the Middle East flying the large tanker and cargo KC-10 aircraft.

He and his family spent the last few years of active duty stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California. In an interview done for the Veterans History Project in 2011, Wright discussed his decision to leave active duty as one of the hardest in his life.

“It was too much fun to walk away completely,” he added.

The day after separating from active duty in 2007, he started with the Air Force Reserves. With the reserves, he and his family hopped around to bases in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

He was more involved than the typical reservist. Wright flew for the reserves as well as instructed and evaluated other pilot’s abilities. He also acted as EPLO (Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer), a liaison between the Air Force and state and federal agencies that coordinate resources during disasters.

The Wright’s moved to Auburn in 2017, close to their Valley community.

The reserves also gave him the chance to continue serving while he started a career as a commercial pilot with UPS.

Just as with any career, Wright’s military came to an end when he retired from the Air Force Reserves on Oct. 1. While the military tends to have more formal retirement ceremonies, as a native to Valley, Wright had his retirement party at Johnny’s Pizza in downtown West Point.

As he celebrates his first Veterans Day as a veteran of the military, Wright said it is weird being one of the “old guys.”

While Wright may have retired from his work in the military, he still enjoys flying big planes, like 757s and 767s, for the shipping company. With only two trips a month lasting around five days, time away from his family has been shorter. He often flies out of the Atlanta airport, the same airport where he used to watch the planes take off.

“I’ve been blessed and fortunate to live my dream. It wasn’t always easy, especially with all the deployments. But I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for anything,” Wright said.