It is a long way from a 360-acre farm in the center of the Midwest to representing the United States Air Force as a member of the F-16 Thunderbird Fighter pilots.
For Tech. Sgt. Craig Hall from California, Missouri, it is one that he planned for most of his life.
“On Sept. 24, 2012, my 19th birthday, I began my military service,” Hall said by phone from Las Vegas, where he is currently stationed at Nellis Air Force Base. “Since the first day I entered the service, I can truly say I can’t imagine doing anything else at this stage in my life.
“I plan to retire from the Air Force after 20 years of service,” Hall said. “Then, I will consider the next stage of my life, but for now I am blessed to be representing the 700,000 men and women in uniform and the fallen warriors who have gone before me.”
Even as a young man, Hall was interested in military service. He has one uncle who served in the Marines and a second uncle who served in the Air Force.
“I talked and listened to my both my uncles a lot,” Hall said. “I was really impressed with how the Air Force treated their members.
“Knowing that someday I would marry and have a family, the Air Force seemed like the best fit for me,” he added.
Another factor helped Hall in his decision to enlist: the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2011, assured Hall that his decision to enlist was the right one.
Hall actually enlisted in December 2011, but was part of the “Depth” enlistment program, which meant his actual enlistment day was delayed.
Although his decision to enter the Air Force is not one he second-guessed, leaving the small-town rural life of California was difficult.
“I grew up on my family farm,” Hall said. “My grandparents’ farm is just a stone’s throw away and so growing up I was really involved in FFA (Future Farmers of America) and living and working on the farm.
“My dad farms and is a diesel mechanic and I was always interested in working with my hands and helping him out,” Hall added.
Rather than spending his time playing sports, after his freshman year, Hall started working at an auto body shop to save as much money as he could.
“I was only an average student,” Hall said. “I really loved FFA though and I feel like I shined in that. I was the vice president of FFA. Math and science classes I wasn’t really that interested in.”
Whatever free time Hall had was spent riding and doing maintenance on dirt bikes. It is a passion he still has to this day and one that he shares with his wife, Cyndi, and their 4-year-old daughter, Jaelea.
“Cyndi and I met in seventh grade,” Hall said. “We dated all through high school and we married in 2003.
“I can tell you one thing for certain, being in the military is not a one-person job,” Hall added. “Cyndi is the one who is always at home taking care of everything. I know I couldn’t do this all by myself.”
Hall has been deployed four times since the couple married, twice to Iraq, once to Qatar, and once to the United Arab Emirates.
With the exception of his deployments, Cyndi and Jaelea have been there with him every step of the way.
His parents and extended family have also traveled to see Hall. Fifty members of his family were on hand to see him and the F-16 Thunderbirds when he performed June 15 at the Wings Over Whiteman Open House and Air Show.
“Both my grandmothers and my grandpa Hall were there as were my parents and my brother and his family,” Hall said. “It meant a lot for them to all be there to support me.”
Hall explained that he tries to return to the family farm in California about every six months. With the exception of when he has been deployed, his parents also try to visit wherever he is stationed.
“As a member of the Thunderbirds squadron, I get the chance to represent an incredible group of men and women,” Hall commented. “They are a top-notch organization and I will miss this stage of my service.”
His service with the Thunderbirds will end Oct. 1. As much as he has appreciated the opportunity to work with the F-16’s, Hall is looking forward to once again working more directly with “the men in blue.”
Hall will be stationed next in Georgia and will be working in the same area that he does now, as an air flight equipment personnel specialist.
“I will be a section chief at the base,” Hall said. “I will be spending a lot of my time teaching others how to do the job I presently do.
“One thing about it is that I will have the opportunity to work on several different types of aircraft which I’m really looking forward to,” Hall added. “One of my goals is to get as many different planes under my belt as I can.”
Hall expects to work on C130’s, A-10’s and F-16’s while stationed in Georgia.
“The family is all really excited to get to go,” Hall said. “Jaelea will start kindergarten there and I am working on my bachelor’s degree online in business management.
“I’m not 100 percent sure what will happen from there,” he added. “Time will tell, but I know I have worked with a lot of good and wonderful people during my time in the Air Force.”
If his plans hold true, Hall will retire form the service at the age of 39. He hopes Whiteman Air Force Base will be the last base he is stationed.
“In the Air Force we always say that, ‘We have a job to do and so we focus on the task at hand,’” Hall said. “That’s what I’m doing, but I would love to return home.
“I miss the pull of the farm,” he added. “I truly believe that everything works out the way it is supposed to and I am extremely grateful for all I have been given.”