When he was 16, Steve Owens’ parents scraped together enough money for him to get his pilot’s license. Owens was crazy about aviation. His parents, despite not having a lot of extra money, recognized that learning how to fly could possibly lead to even greater opportunities for their son.
Not long after, Owens spent a summer doing missionary work at Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) in North Carolina. JAARS provides jungle aviation services for Bible translators throughout the world. At the end of the summer, one of the pilots, Dan Miller, a retired U.S. Army Warrant Officer and Vietnam helicopter pilot, offered to take Owens along on a fundraising trip along the east coast.
During the trip, Miller asked the young man what he planned to do after high school. Owens replied that his parents didn’t have enough money to send him to college, but he really wanted to be a pilot. “But I don’t know how to do that without having a degree,” he added.
Miller told Owens about the Army’s Warrant Officer program and urged him to see a recruiter when he got home. “That recruiter’s gonna try and talk you into joining the Army as a crew chief or something else,” said Miller. “You just need to tell them you’re not going to do that. You gotta be forceful with them.”
“And I said, ‘Okay!’” recalled Owens. “So, I went to the recruiter when I was old enough; and I told him I wanted to join the military as a pilot, as a warrant officer. I said, ‘I’m not going to do it unless you get me into flight school.’”
The first time he tested, however, Owens wasn’t accepted into the program. The recruiter asked him if he wanted to reapply, and he said, “Absolutely!” Three months later, he got in.
Owens completed a “High School to Flight School” program through the Army. Since then, he has served a combined 30 years of active duty and through the National Guard units in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. He is now the Command Chief Warrant Officer for the West Virginia National Guard. Today, his combination of education and experience has added Upper Iowa University adjunct faculty to his resume. Owens teaches principles of emergency management through UIU’s online program.
In 1996, while serving in the National Guard, Owens left his civilian job to join the West Virginia State Police Department. He loved it! In addition to flying helicopters, Owens was part of the K-9 unit and was a trooper, as well as a hostage negotiator and investigator. He realized quickly, however, that in order to be promoted within the department, he would need a college education.
He completed his bachelor’s degree (West Virginia State University) and his master’s degree in homeland security (American Military University) while serving with the Guard.
In 2004, Owens was deployed to Kosovo where he flew UH60 and HH60 Blackhawk helicopters with a medevac unit. When he returned home 10 months later, he was offered a fulltime position with the West Virginia National Guard where he was assigned to a homeland defense unit.
“I always tell people, especially my students, I am the product of an adult learner education with two little kids running around the house and a fulltime job,” Owens said. “I know exactly what you’re going through because I’ve done it.”
In 2009, he was deployed to Afghanistan flying a C12 twin engine airplane as part of Task Force ODIN. He recently returned from a third deployment, this time in Africa, where he was part of a C12 detachment hauling people and supplies all over the continent.
Owens had to return early, however. After five months in Africa, he was called home to receive his promotion to Command Chief Warrant Officer.
Balancing his career, personal and teaching aspects of his life can be quite challenging, he’ll admit, but being an online instructor is one that actually relaxes him. “Hopefully, I’m able to influence someone else’s life in a good way,” Owens said. “Perhaps, I can even let them know how I traveled my road, and maybe then they can make a decision that will benefit their lives.”