TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A soldier’s final flight will be over the skies of his hometown.
Lieutenant Colonel John Morelos will don his flight suit for the last time on Nov. 1 at Pinal Air Park as he prepares to retire from the Army National Guard after 30 years of military service.
For Lt. Col Morelos, it’s familiar territory. He grew up in the Butterfield neighborhood of Marana and graduated from Marana High School in 1987. Four of his five children graduated from Marana High as well.
Military is a way of life for the Morelos family. Both of John’s brothers also served — Nick was a Marine and Jason was in the Army. John’s grandfather served during World War II, his father was an Army engineer, and his wife, Kim, served in the Air Force. Between John, his grandfather, father, two brothers and wife, there’s a total of 87 years of military service.
Morelos joined the Air Force in 1990 and transferred to the Army National Guard three years later to become a helicopter pilot and has since then has risen through the ranks to his current position as the Deputy Commander of the Western Army Aviation Training Site (WAATS) at Pinal Air Park northwest of Tucson.
John has spent a lot of time in the cockpit, logging nearly 2,000 hours. He will hit that coveted 2,000 hours before he retires earning him the distinction of Army Aviator Master Wings. In 2006, Morelos was deployed for nearly two years during Operation Enduring Freedom. His unit spent 10 months in Ft. Hood, Texas, then 13 months in Afghanistan with the 1-285th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion. It was a long time to be away from home, leaving his wife and five children behind.
As a military family, separation from each other is a sacrifice felt by all. There were other times when Morelos didn’t get to see his kids much. For three years, he was stationed in Phoenix, leaving the house at 3:00 in the morning and not getting home until 8:00 that night. But, in true soldier fashion, Morelos accepted his duty and never complained. His kids are all grown up now and he’s now the proud grandfather of two boys.
Morelos’ retirement date is April 30, 2020 but a small part of his long career will stay grounded following his Nov. 1st final flight piloting a military aircraft.