36 Years of Service, Lifetime of Memories

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Grace Thomson
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

– After 36 years of service, the Air Force bids farewell to Lt. Col. Bryan Branby on March 22, 2019.

Branby had always wanted to join the Air Force. His father was a pilot for the F-100 Super Sabre and this was all Branby wanted to do as a career.

“To me that’s like going into the family business,” Branby said.

So much so that, when he was a freshman in high school, he applied to the U.S. Air Force Academy long before he would even be considered.

He applied again his senior year of high school but had a backup plan to attend Northern Arizona State University to major in journalism and possibly participate in U.S. Air Force ROTC.

However, two weeks after his high school graduation Branby got the call that would make his dreams a reality; he was going to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

He graduated in 1982 and went on his way to navigator school at Mather Air Force Base, Sacramento, California. 

Branby desperately wanted to be on a fighter jet, if not that then he wanted to get on any plane that would let him travel the world, he said.

Unfortunately that would not happen for a few more years as his first assignment was to Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, whose mission was mostly within the continental United States.

“My first flight was very overwhelming just because you feel so important,” Branby said. “Our job was nuclear deterrence so we sat alert. It was very regimented and you felt like it was very important.”

Though it was not what he wanted initially, it was at Ellsworth AFB that he met his wife, Laura Branby, and his career began to take shape into something he had always wanted.

After Ellsworth AFB, Branby went to Griffiss AFB, New York where he was promoted to instructor.

After Griffiss AFB, the time came to decide if he and his wife would like to re-enlist as it looked as if they would be separated for their next duty stations.

Fate took over, as Branby said, and he received a letter from a former coworker at Ellsworth AFB and Griffiss AFB telling him about an opening at 911th Airlift Wing; they needed C-130 Hercules navigators.

There were two major reasons to move to Pittsburgh: it had an Air Force Reserve base with a flying mission, and Branby’s wife had family there. The decision was an easy one for the family as they moved with two children in tow. Later, in 1993, a third would complete their family.

He had contacted Lt. Col. Lowery Bailey, 911th Operations Group chief navigator at the time and was a 911th AW Navigator in no time at all, with a civilian job as a quality engineer for an electric transformer manufacturing plant in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

Branby was officially with the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station as of May 1990and stayed until his 2019 retirement.

In his career he has gone to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Kandahar, Pakistan, Yemen, Djibouti, and Qatar among many other places.

“It’s just been a really great experience being here at the 911th AW,” Branby said. “I did just about everything I ever wanted to.”

Branby worked hard to make his time at the 911th AW the best it can be.

“Bryan does the right thing when it is convenient not to” said Senior Master Sgt. Marshall Martindale, stand evaluation superintendent at the 911th OG.

An example that stood out to Martindale was when there were two navigators that did not have current officer performance reports done. They did not think it was necessary to do them because they were leaving the U.S. Air Force. Branby disagreed and worked for two days to get it done. He wanted to make sure that, should they want to, these officers could come back.

Not only did Branby go above and beyond for his people, he also made sure they were taken care of during day-to-day operations, especially with the bases recent conversion to the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.

“Bryan was the rock during this whole conversion,” said Martindale. “At any one time he was either the squadron commander, the operations group commander, the wing commander, etc. There were just so many people relying on him and he was the one person that was the glue of the squadron.”

Now, Branby is the chief for the 911th AW C-17 Program Integration Office, and this is what he will retire as; though he still thinks about his navigator roots.

He has flown on many missions with the 911th AW in the C-130 Hercules and he said his last flight was a bittersweet experience.

“There was a time in there where I just thought ‘Yeah I’m going to miss being in this seat and seeing these views, the sounds, the smells,’” said Branby.

Since the 911th no longer has C-130s, it was only due to the generosity of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, that he got to go back up in one for a final farewell.

He also had a final flight in a C-17 but he said the experience was more of a passenger rather than a part of the crew.

“It was good to see these guys flying a new airplane but it wasn’t my airplane,” he said.

Though his time in the Air Force has come to an end he will still be connected to the 911th for some time to come. Branby will continue his in position with the C-17 PIO Office until flight simulators come in for the C-17s.

“It’s been fun and an honor to work with him and beside him,” said Martindale, “I’m a better person for knowing him.”

Branby also had some parting words for his Airmen as well.

“Throughout it all I’ve had great mentors, a variety of leaders, and tremendous crews and steadfast friends” Branby said. “My lessons in life are few; take care of your family and people, say yes as much as possible, do it all then ask for more, and write your own performance reports because no one cares about your career as much as you do.”