PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — An Air Force pilot who spent months training to be an instructor pilot on an F-16 fighter jet is being honored by the Air Force Academy for his work.
The plane was a Super Hornet fighter that was used in the Battle of the Bulge and a nuclear strike on Hiroshima.
Ryan Priester, who earned the Silver Star with his squadron, said he was a pilot who loved flying.
He said he felt like a hero during the Vietnam War.
“I got my first chance in combat when I was in the Air Forces Academy,” he said.
Priester said he spent more than 30 hours a week on the plane, but he didn’t take his job seriously because he wasn’t a pilot.
“I’m a little bit of a guy who loves flying,” he told ABC News.
He said he had trouble with some people at the Air Academy, including the instructor and his fellow cadets.
“There was a couple of things I would do that I didn’t agree with,” he recalled.
“One was not to use my helmet.
That wasn’t cool, that wasn’t my thing.
That was one thing that got me in trouble.”
Prieser, 23, was selected to fly an F/A-18E Super Hornets fighter plane for his squadron in October 2018.
He had been on the job for just under a year when he was named the new instructor pilot.
The plane was flown by a pilot named Michael Stoltz, who flew the F-117 stealth fighter and the B-2 bomber during the war.
He was killed in a bomb explosion during the invasion of Iraq.
“It was a pretty tough experience,” Prieser said.
“I was training to become a fighter pilot, so it was hard, but I loved it.”
Pryter was a big fan of the Super Hornett.
“When I was on the Super Hornets, I always wanted to fly the Super Hercules,” he explained.
“But I got the B1 and the A-10.
The B1 was my first airplane.”
Pryingter said his first flight was in September 2018.
“My first flight, I was just on the ground.
I was trying to get up to the hangar to do some repairs,” he added.
“We were on the way to a test flight, and I was going to make a quick landing.
But I missed the ramp.
It went sideways and went over the side of the runway.
It was just kind of a surreal moment.
It’s like, ‘Oh my God.'”
Priesing said he didn-t think he would ever have to take the jump.
“The first time I jumped, it was on my first jump,” he remembered.
“It was kind of an exciting moment.
But then it got a little less exciting.”
He said it was just a “silly” experience.
“But then you get into the real world,” he continued.
“You know, you get to go up there and take a seat and do some training and do your job.”
Pryster said when he took the job, the squadron commander said, “I want you to be the best you can be.”
“He said, ‘You are a fighter,'” he said, recalling the commander.
“And that’s what we do.”
Prister’s career in the military lasted almost two decades.
He served as a pilot, instructor and flight instructor in the U.S. Air Force.
He joined the Air National Guard in February 2017, after receiving his airman certificate in aviation.