Air Force Reserves Fighter Pilot: Family man, Good Samaritan

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Andre Bowser
  • 944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Where might you find three possible generations of Air Force men, and a future American Idol winner? 

Look no further than Lt. Col. Robert Swortzel's household in about 14 to 15 years or so.
Colonel Swortzel, an instructor pilot with the 301st Fighter Squadron, said his father was an Air Force man. That drove him to join. 

"Dad was in the Air Force intelligence community; he inspired me," Colonel Swortzel said. 

The next generation of Swortzel men also has an eye toward futures in the Air Force. His sons, though very young, say they want to follow his career steps over the horizon.
Colonel Swortzel, married with three children, proudly lauds his two sons Jacob, 14, and Caleb, 9. 

"Both my boys want to be fighter pilots," he says. 

For the star quality in the family, he boasts of his 12-year-old daughter, April.
"She wants to be an American Idol," he said. 

The airline pilot and 1985 Purdue University ROTC graduate quickly entered pilot training the same year he graduated from college. 

Colonel Swortzel, an F-16 fighter pilot, served three tours overseas in the Philippines, Thailand and Korea. He arrived at Luke Air Force Base in 1996 and worked as an Regular Air Force F-16 fighter pilot instructor with the 56th Wing until he joined the 301st Fighter Squadron in January 2000. 

Colonel Swortzel joined Southwest Airlines in September 1999, where he now works as a captain flying out of Phoenix, adding another accolade to his already lofty career.
The same drive that has propelled him in his civilian life and the Air Force Reserve has inspired Colonel Swortzel to assist others in his community. 

Colonel Swortzel has helped at the Southwest Sports Academy, the athletic arm of Valley Christian Center, a nonprofit, faith-based organization in Phoenix. 

His involvement includes putting on events at Luke Air Force Base for the young men associated with the Southwest Sports Academy. He said he also helped schedule trips to basketball tournaments in Nevada and Texas. 

In 2006, Colonel Swortzel worked to wrangle up free flight passes for more than 19 people, including players, to compete in the Kingwood Basketball Classic in Houston, Texas. 

He started working with the nonprofit organization's basketball team after his son's team played a game against the Southwest Sports Academy. 

"They beat my son's team handedly," he said. So, it was an easy decision when asked by the sports academy's director, Albert Ramirez, whether his son wanted to play on the team. 

Colonel Swortzel said his son, Jacob, was the only white member on a team largely Hispanic and black. 

"The coach encouraged my son's participation to make the team more diverse," he said.
Jacob Swortzel, who at the time was about 6 feet tall, also offered another thing.
"He was the tallest player on the team," Colonel Swortzel said. His son, who at the time played on the junior high school level for the team, is now engaged in other sports, including track. 

"I was very happy to have my son play on the team," said Colonel Swortzel, who said he wanted to set an example for his family to strive to connect with other communities outside of their own, and to give back when possible. 

"I don't want to just talk a good game, I want to do something about it." 

Colonel Swortzel said above all he prides himself with his work in the Air Force Reserve community 

"This wing, we have reinvented ourselves and our capabilities, tactics and instructions to better support the war on terror and the needs of the Air Force," he said.