Two Purdue graduates have taken their love for aviation and Purdue to fly helicopters for the United States Army.
Vincent Marino and Daniel Hill both grew up with an interest in flying and are now active-duty warrant officers – technical experts in flying helicopters. Separate paths at Purdue led them to interview, train and fly together on a UH-60M Blackhawk helicopter in one of the most selective units of the armed forces.
“Daniel and I joined the Army the summer following graduation and went to basic training in Fort Jackson, S.C.,” said Marino. “Upon completion of flight school, (we) both received orders of assignment to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. Our paths crossed at Purdue and, by chance, have been headed in the same direction since.”
Marino graduated in 2012, participating in a combined undergraduate and graduate program. He studied aviation flight training and received a master’s degree in aerospace management, choosing Purdue specifically for these programs. Marino always knew he wanted to do something related to aviation; he grew up surrounded by it because his father worked at an aerospace engineering company and his mother worked for US Airways.
“I remembered, as a boy, going to visit my mom at work and watching the planes as they took off,” said Marino. “I had always dreamed that someday I would fly an airplane and share in the adventure of being a pilot.”
While he knew he wanted to follow in his parents’ footsteps by working in aviation, Marino said his experience at Purdue prepared him for his specialized, rigorous position with the Army. As a Boiler Gold Rush team leader and resident assistant in Cary Quad, he learned leadership skills, and through the diversity of community on campus, he learned how to interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Similarly, Hill said he was surprised at how everything he learned at Purdue transferred to his career today. As a participant in Purdue’s Grand Prix race all four years of his undergraduate career, Hill said he learned how to manage stress and be in charge of a crew – skills that are still important to his position as a warrant officer.
“Everything that we’ve gone through, from the day we stepped on the bus to flying an aircraft, has really transferred over from (what we learned at) Purdue,” said Hill. “In the Army, as an officer, you have to be a good leader, and in my program, you have to be good at aviation. Purdue taught me both of those.”
A 2012 graduate of the aeronautical engineering technology program, Hill said joining the army was a natural combination of a way to serve his country and do something he loves. This love, partly in his blood with an airline pilot father and a flight instructor grandfather, was fostered during an internship the summer after his sophomore year.
“I was working at the airport, and my boss let me ride in a helicopter and I just fell in love,” said Hill.
Now, he’s flying five feet above trees at 120 mph, training in combat maneuvers.
“First and foremost, serving your country is the best feeling in the world,” said Hill. “It’s kind of like being at Purdue again, with the family atmosphere and feeling like you’re part of something bigger than yourself. In the Army, it’s the same but even bigger.”
Neither Marino nor Hill joined through Purdue's Army ROTC program; however, they knew they wanted to join the Armed Forces. Both agreed they could not imagine doing anything else. They applied to what the Army calls the street-to-seat program, where civilians apply for the Army in the same way one would apply for a civilian job.
“If I could have chosen another path, there’s no other path I would have chosen; it’s worked out perfectly,” said Hill.
Moreover, they couldn’t imagine a better tie bringing them together in the Army.
“(Purdue) provided me with a family that extends far beyond West Lafayette; a sense of confidence and pride that surpasses most and can only be understood by a fellow Boilermaker,” said Marino. “I have many brothers in the Army, but there’s a special bond with those like Daniel Hill who understand that Harry’s doesn’t serve chocolate and that XXX accepts cash for peanut butter burgers, not magazines.”