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fighter pilot with the 157th Fighter Squadron in May 2008.

CANTON Becoming a fighter pilot was Canton native and 1st Lt. Andrew Lehman's childhood dream.

Lehman enlisted in the Alabama Air Guard's 187th Fighter Wing in April 2004 and worked in fuels until he was accepted by the South Carolina Air National Guard to become a Swamp Fox Nike Sb Stefan Janoski Max Mid Black

The path to becoming a fighter pilot was a Nike Sb Black Sheep Collab

Making it to the "B course" of pilot training was what Lehman enjoyed most. It's when pilots in training finally take the seat of an F 16 Fighting Falcon and fly alone.

"Applying and interviewing around the country is by far the hardest part," he said. "It's easy to lose your motivation."

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Nike Janoski Custom

"Though nothing eventful happened while we were out there, we served our purpose. Nike Sb Supreme Gts

"The second you let your motivation fall, the second you take your eye off the prize, is the second you're not going to make it," he said.

"Personally, I can't imagine a higher calling," Lehman said. "There's no better way for me to serve my country than by flying an American fighter jet going out there, protecting the skies and protecting our guys on the ground. I'm fortunate to be in a position, trained and equipped to help them."

Now stationed with his F 16 Fighting Falcon comrades at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, he is providing air support for the troops on the ground who serve outside the wire and, at times, come under fire from the enemy.

"The whole experience was phenomenal," he said. "It's obviously a very memorable day."

The process of becoming a fighter pilot amounts to a very stressful journey. Because the job itself obviously is intense, Lehman said, demonstrating the ability to handle high stress from the get go is a must.

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He considers himself fortunate to belong to a fighter squadron with a wealth of experience and talent and said the more seasoned members of the 157th helped prepare him for this next big step in his career.

The son of Richard and Linda Lehman of Canton, he started flying at the age of 17 and has worked hard ever since to make that dream count.

"Flying that first combat mission was pretty enjoyable," he said. The SCANG pilots traveled around the country, communicating with the troops at various forward operating bases about certain areas they had encountered or marked that needed additional surveillance.

"It's a challenge in its own to get the job to begin with," he said.

The fighter pilot said he is proud to be there.

He joined the SCANG in Nike Janoski Custom November of that year and continued to work in fuels before fighter pilot training.

After competing for and earning an opportunity to interview, candidates go up against 10 to 15 other highly qualified and motivated men and women, all with their eyes on the same prize.

Fighter pilot keeps his eye on the prize

We had combat ready airplanes in the air, ready to respond to anything. And I think that, in and of itself, is a success."

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"We were out there to give them the warm fuzzy," explained Lehman. "Our jet noise in the sky alone lets the non friendlies know we're there and can react quickly."

All the stress and hard work has paid off for him now, as he's deployed to Afghanistan with his fellow Swamp Foxes and flying sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

They also were tasked with route reconnaissance, searching areas that are traveled daily for improvised explosive device emplacements to ensure safer missions for the coalition forces.

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long and arduous one. From submitting his application in October 2007 to starting fighter pilot training in July 2009 and earning his wings a year later, Lehman says he constantly challenged himself to stay motivated.

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Nike Janoski Custom

Stepping to the jet for his first combat sortie was somewhat nerve racking, he said, but, once he was wheels up, he was able to settle down and focus on the mission.

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