Eyes on the Skies
Story by PO3 Rachael A Treon on 01/25/2019
With a father proudly serving in the United States Navy, Lt. Michael Kumm’s childhood was filled with new homes, new schools, and dreams of being a pilot. After graduating high school in Whidbey Island, Washington, Kumm knew he was destined to serve.
Kumm enlisted in the Navy in 2000 as a Naval Aircrewman. He traveled from boot camp to Pensacola, Florida, where he attended AW “A” school and Aircrew school. His first assignment led him back home to Whidbey Island to serve in Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 1, the same command his father retired from only six months before.
Years passed and Kumm, a petty officer first class, earned an associate’s degree and continued to dedicate his life to aircraft, so close but so far from his childhood dream of piloting aircraft. Kumm said his life would forever change the day his Senior Chief walked in holding a Navy instruction describing the Flying Chief Warrant Officer Program and telling him, “You need to do this.”
The program served as a fast track from enlisted Sailor to naval aviator. Motivated E-5 through E-7 selectees were commissioned as chief warrant officers and sent to flight school to be a pilot or a naval flight officer. Meeting the age, physical, and academic requirements, Kumm’s dream became his mission.
Putting together his submission package took time, dedication and extreme attention to detail, said Kumm. After taking the Armed Forces Qualification Test and gathering his evaluations, awards, medical records, letters of recommendation, and more, Kumm submitted his package.
On Dec. 1, 2008, he arrived to work as normal as a petty officer first class. Around lunch he stood at his commissioning ceremony, where he was recognized as one of 48 Flying Chief Warrant Officer selectees, and his life forever changed. After eight and a half years enlisted, he returned to work that day as a chief warrant officer. Three weeks later his dreams finally became a reality and he was off to flight school.
Kumm excelled through flight school and graduated to fly EP-3E Aries II surveillance aircraft. His first assignment was, once again, to return home to VQ-1 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
After five and a half years flying, he decided once again to make a change in his career path. In 2014 he was selected for the unrestricted line officer program and converted directly from chief warrant officer to lieutenant.
Today, with more than 17 years in the Navy, Kumm serves aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) as an operations admin officer with ambitions to return to the sky once again.
“My goal is to get back in the cockpit,” said Kumm. “My next hurdle is promoting to
O-4 and being selected to return to a squadron as a department head. I’ll keep going from there, for as long as the Navy will have me.”
Kumm said he was fortunate to have finished his associate’s degree before discovering the FWO program, and encourages other Sailors to set educational goals.
“My advice for junior Sailors working on college is to get a degree plan for a bachelor’s degree and an associate’s degree,” said Kumm. “If you get a degree plan for both, you can take the necessary classes to hit that intermediate goal and have a degree to show for it, which helps you and your evaluations.”
Enlisted Sailors planning to use their degree for a commissioning program should seek mentorship from others who have completed the same program, and allow ample time to complete their package.
Kumm said Sailors looking for a new path should work hard, never give up, stay motivated, and find the positive side of any situation.
“There are going to be difficulties in whatever goal you are trying to achieve,” said Kumm. “Things are going to stand in your way. Somebody’s going to tell you that you can’t do it, but if you truly want it you won’t let anything get you down. If you truly want it, you’ll find a way.”
Kumm’s Navy journey is unique, and he would like to give special thanks to his senior chief and mentor from VQ-1 for guiding him to the path of success.
“Where I am today I never could’ve envisioned,” said Kumm. “I feel so blessed to have been afforded the opportunity and to have seized it. It’s truly amazing.”