Panther Pride: Middle Park assistant football coach flies high to protect American freedoms |

Panther Pride: Middle Park assistant football coach flies high to protect American freedoms

Will Bublitz
Grand County, Colorado
Major Craig Schmidt, Co-Pilot assigned to the 187th Airlift Squadron, Wyoming Air National Guard, talks with the Pilot while flying to Kandahar Afghanistan on 16 April 2002. Aircrews from the West Virginia and Wyoming ANG are assigned to the 321st Air Expeditionary Group and transport personnel and cargo to various locations in the area of operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (USAF Photo by Tech. Sgt. Marvin Preston, 321st AEG/SC)

A Tabernash, Colorado, man who is an assistant coach for Middle Park High School’s football team has just been promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Wyoming Air National Guard.

Troy Schmidt received his silver oak leaf insignia as a lieutenant colonel on Nov. 4. He is the Chief of Wing Tactics for the 153rd Air Wing based in Cheyenne.

During his service with the Wyoming Air National Guard since 2000, Schmidt has participated in several deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. He is a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft pilot who has flown special operations missions in both those war-torn countries.

“Our missions include rapid infiltration/exfiltration by air drop and night-vision goggle landing, aerial resupply and refueling of special operations helicopters,” Schmidt said. “We make air drops of supplies to troops on the ground day and night. It’s what we’ve trained for.”

Since the beginning of the America’s War on Terror, Schmidt has deployed four times to southwestern Asia including: December 2001 to August 2002, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; March to May 2004, Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq; April to June 2006, Afghanistan; and April to June 2007, Iraq.

In addition to those missions, Schmidt has also deployed to assist NATO troops who are continuing to serve in “Joint Guardian” peace-keeping missions in Kosovo. He flew missions there in December 2004 to January 2005 and December 2006 to January 2007.

Schmidt has also participated in “Operation Coronet Oak” from October to December 2006 and November to December 2005. While based in Puerto Rico, his Air Guard unit flew missions in support of counter-drug operations in Colombia.

When not taking part in overseas deployments, Schmidt’s Air Guard unit has also participated in forest firefighting missions, dropping chemical slurry on blazes across the West.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been used a lot,” Schmidt said. “We’re trained up to regular Air Force standards and are ready to go.”

Prior to joining the Wyoming Air National Guard, he served on active duty with the U.S. Air Force from 1991 to Aug. 2000. He learned to fly jets as well as propeller-driven transports such as the C-130 Hercules and its special operations version, the MC-130P.

Schmidt received his officer’s commission through Air Force ROTC after graduating from the University of Northern Colorado in 1991. He grew up in Grand County and graduated from Middle Park High in 1986.

When not serving with the Wyoming Air National Guard, Schmidt is a commercial pilot with United Airlines, flying Air Bus 319/320 airliners since 2001.

At home in Grand County, he is the assistant coach for Middle Park High’s football team on which he played as quarterback and running back in the 1980s. His wife Katie also grew up in Grand County and graduated from Middle Park High School. Their two sons, Mike and Marc Schmidt, are both star players on the Panther football team.

“It’s been neat to be a product of this high school, go away to serve in the military and come back here to be a part of Panther team again,” Schmidt said. “I want to thank head coach Marc Loberg for being so flexible with my schedule and the rest of the coaching staff for picking up the slack when I’m away.”

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