by Rick Davenport,
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Both were FA-18 fighter pilots whose careers began with the love of flying, thanks in part to fathers who had military aviation experience. But how Scott and Courtney Gallagher’s dreams became a reality is amazingly different.
Scott and Courtney met and married while naval officers. They are now TxDOT employees after a combined 30 years of military service — including deployments, combat tours and squadron commands — and recently shared that flying experience with a group of Central Texas middle school students. As a result of their assembly presentation for Constitution Day, sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Gallaghers think that some of those students may have caught the same bug they did years earlier.
Coincidently, Courtney was the same age as those La Grange 6th and 7th graders when she made a life-changing decision. She decided to be a fighter pilot.
“Everything I did from that point in my life was geared toward that goal,” she said. “I knew I had to make good grades, especially in math. I couldn’t get into trouble. Everything I did was in that pursuit.”
Courtney became her high school valedictorian and went to college on a ROTC scholarship. Her dream was achieved through sheer determination.
Her husband began his career a little differently.
Scott had completed just two years of college when he had to leave school due to finances. He was working odd jobs when he spotted a want-ad for a job that would fit his schedule. Turns out, the person answering the number he dialed was a U.S. Navy recruiter.
“After an in-person visit and taking a preliminary entrance test, I did not think much about it,” he recalls of the fateful 1986 event. “But when he called later to say I scored high enough for the Naval Aviation Cadet Program, my 21-year career began — after I got a lot of hair cut off.”
Whether from a twist of fate or years of resolve, Scott and Courtney found themselves driving to La Grange with the hope of sharing a similar message of achieving dreams: Don’t give up. Try your hardest. You can achieve more than you think you can. And perhaps most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
“We were not on a Navy recruitment visit,” Scott said of their participation. “We really wanted to share the broader message of ‘living up to your potential.’”
The Gallaghers’ presentation included a video, photographs and some stories, but what seemed to ignite a fire of enthusiasm was the aviator gear — flight suits, harnesses, jackets and helmets. When the pilot couple asked for volunteers to try on the stuff, every hand was raised to the ceiling.
“I think most girls don’t realize what’s available to them,” Courtney said. “They might think being a pilot is a boy’s job. But when they see another girl who has been one, they realize they might be able to become one as well.”
Courtney said she drove away from the school realizing that she made an impact on somebody.
A teacher at the school told the Gallaghers that their presentation was a big hit among the students, especially for a shy girl in the audience. The teacher said she could see the eyes of the young girl light up, especially when they were talking about not being afraid to ask for help.
“Asking for help doesn’t mean you are weak. It means you’re strong,” Courtney said. “Sometimes, achieving your goals requires some guidance.”
As good as the presentation might have been for the kids, Scott and Courtney may have gotten the most out of it.
They drove home thinking “I hope we get to do this again.”
Editor’s Note: Scott Gallagher recently left the Aviation Division to begin a new career with Tac Air based in Patuxent River Maryland. In his new position, Scott will be serving as a consultant for the F/A-18 community and a pilot for the air services arm of his new company, Tactical Air Support Inc. We wish him and his family the best of luck!