When Tyler Davis ’19 was 7 years old, his dad took him to an air show in San Diego. It was the thunder and precision that got his attention. The Blue Angels flight team tore over them, performing a flawless routine.
They left more than vapor trails behind. They planted a dream in Davis’ head.
“At that point, I didn’t know anything about jets, or what they were,” says Davis, who was recently on campus to keynote UMass Lowell’s 2023 Veteran’s Day Flag Ceremony. “But at that moment, I knew I wanted to be a pilot.”
Davis joined the Air Force in 2011, but knew that as an enlisted member, there was little chance he’d ever fly aircraft. Instead, he was assigned to work in intelligence. He excelled. And he loved it.
“I always loved flight, but I fell in love with the enlisted corps and especially the combat arms and special operations professionals,” he says. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2016, and his close work with special operations forces left Davis yearning to serve with them.
He wanted to pursue a commission, and was honorably discharged from the Air Force as a staff sergeant so that he could work on his degree.
His dream came true at UML, through Air Force ROTC Detachment 345
. His leadership as cadet wing commander led Maj. Todd Meyers, then ROTC’s director of operations, to recommend that he compete for a flight position. He was selected in February 2018.
“I was blown away – extremely ecstatic,” recalls Davis, who is now a U.S. Air Force captain assigned to the 1st Helicopter Squadron headquartered out of Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
Davis chose UMass Lowell because he had a friend from the Lowell area, and he was impressed with the city’s diversity. UML was affordable, and the location was good, he says. And there was an Air Force ROTC.
“What sold it for me was learning that veterans support here is extremely high,” he says.
As cadet wing commander for the ROTC unit, Davis oversaw planning and handled organizational duties. His tenure also saw the unit’s first formal aerospace education pipeline, allowing cadets to explore the possibility of flying, including a ground school education on flight and a free orientation flight. The detachment also has the region’s only ROTC flight simulator.
While at UMass Lowell, Davis maintained altitude in the classroom, too.
He was among 14 graduates of the Class of 2019 to earn a Chancellor’s Medal
after maintaining a 4.0 grade point average on his way to a bachelor’s degree in political science
. He concentrated on international relations, researching foreign military doctrine with a focus on human rights concerns. He also earned AFROTC 345’s distinguished graduate award.
“UMass Lowell truly made me a better man,” says Davis, who is now a mission pilot and chief of plans and programs. “The faculty are amazing; they see their job as a calling, a mission.”