Maintainer Mizell Makes for the Sky

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Preston Webb
  • 931st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Speaking with 1000 Citizen Airmen will produce 1000 Air Force stories covering honor and passion, family tradition, or just paying for college. Very few Citizen Airmen however will produce a story like Staff Sgt. James Mizell, 931st Maintenance Squadron Electrical and Environmental journeyman, who was recently accepted into the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program.

Mizell’s story sounds similar if not identical to most young Citizen Airmen until he reached Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, home of the 80th Flying Training Wing.

“This all actually started when I went to Sheppard for tech school and saw them flying around,” Mizell said. “I didn’t know much about the program, I just knew I wanted to be up there.”

After graduating technical school, Mizell began researching requirements for pilot training.

“I researched it a little and found that the ENJJPT is the best around since it has instructors from all over NATO come in to teach,” Mizell said. “My end goal is to become a fighter pilot and this program gives me the highest chance of getting a fighter seat.”

Coincidentally, of all the pilot training programs available, the ENJJPT for USAF personnel is operated out of Sheppard AFB. The very aircraft that inspired Mizell to become a pilot are part of the program to which he was accepted.

Despite not having a degree, and already enlisted as a maintenance Citizen Airman, Mizell knew he’d touch the sky one day. Even his supervisor Master Sgt. Nicholas Klenke said he can see the determination and dedication that sets Mizell apart from his peers.

“Where most [young Airmen] these days are playing games or spending time with friends, Mizell puts his goals first and has been doing everything he can to attain them,” Klenke said.

During the week, Mizell is enrolled in the ROTC program at Kansas State University pursuing his Bachelor’s degree to become an officer.

“Being in ROTC was definitely an advantage because I had people to help me put my package together. My degree at [Kansas State University], Professional Pilot, helped out too because I actually turned in 203 flight hours with my package”

His package submitted, the old adage — hurry up and wait — became the norm. Mizell said he would ask his ROTC commander about his status any chance he could. One day after being told there were no results and being dismissed from a muster, Mizell said he was in for a surprise.

“I was leaving my ROTC building when my commander came running out to tell me I’d gotten into the program. At first I didn’t believe him, the whole thing felt surreal,” Mizell said. “Especially being a Sheppard for five months, watching [fighters] fly around and just wanting to be up there. Now I know that I’m going to get the opportunity to do that, and I’m really excited about it.”

With Mizell being one of many top Airmen accepted into various pilot training programs each years, the determination of Mizell and his fellow competing Citizen Airmen can best be summed up by Mizell’s supervisor.

“Once he sets his mind to something, he’s going to accomplish it. There’s nothing or nobody that can stop him,” Klenke said.

For more information on the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program, visit: