BGSU aviation alum among top 1% of Air Force ROTC cadets chosen for highly competitive NATO combat pilot training program

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – A recent Bowling Green State University aviation graduate is among the top 1% of Air Force ROTC cadets nationwide to be selected for the world’s only multi-nationally manned and operated NATO combat pilot training program.

Recently commissioned into the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant, Nicholas Kowalski ’23 will be trained through the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program (ENJJPT). He is one of 28 Air Force ROTC cadets from across the country chosen for the highly competitive training program.

Kowalski, who earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation studies specializing in flight technology and operations, will participate in a rigorous 55-week ground and air training alongside NATO partners from 14 countries. He will first learn to fly T-6A aircraft and then progress to a T-38C twinjet supersonic jet trainer.

“I’m so honored to have been selected for this training program,” Kowalski said. “Flying has always been a part of my life. It’s what I was meant to do.

“Not everyone gets the opportunity to fly faster than the speed of sound and pull g-forces where your body feels like it weighs 2,000 pounds. I feel blessed that military aviation is my reality."

Distinguished graduate

Kowalski enrolled at BGSU in 2019, drawn to the University’s aviation program for its reputation of providing students with ample flying time, beginning as early as their first year.

BGSU is one of only a few universities in the United States with an airport on its campus.

“I was really able to excel through the aviation program at BGSU,” Kowalski said. “I would not have achieved what I did without the opportunities the aviation program and ROTC provided me.”

Lt. Col. Amy Grant, commander, U.S. Air Force ROTC Detachment 620 at BGSU, said Kowalski’s stellar academic performance, exemplary leadership and flying experience contributed to his selection into the ENJJPT program.

He scored in the 97th percentile on his Air Force Officer Qualifying Test, a standardized test similar to the SAT and ACT that measures aptitude and predicts success in a pilot training program.

As a result, he earned the University’s Distinguished Graduate award as an Air Force ROTC squadron commander.

“Nicholas is extremely goal-oriented,” Grant said. “He came to BGSU specifically for the aviation program and to become a military aviator. He’s driven, mentally focused and resilient in the face of adversity.

“The fact that he spent the last four years at BGSU learning about aviation will really set him up for success. If there’s any cadet that is going to succeed in the ENJJPT program, it’ll be him.”

Training for ENJJPT is conducted at the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base in northern Texas, near the Oklahoma border. Kowalski said there’s a waiting period before training begins.

He’s currently stationed at Hill Air Force Base, south of Ogden, Utah, working as an ROTC Gold Bar Recruiter. This selective program of 40 ROTC cadets represents the Air Force across the United States and Europe.

Living life to the fullest

Kowalski grew up surrounded by aviation in Beavercreek, Ohio, just a few miles south of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

He said his decision to become a military pilot stems from a desire to experience life fully and also to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, Colin Kowalski, an Air Force veteran who flew a B-52 aircraft in the Vietnam War.

“My grandfather is definitely an inspiration,” Kowalski said. “I deeply respect him and hold him on a pedestal for all he’s achieved in life. I’m excited he’s able to witness my success.

“I also want to get as much out of life as I can. There has been so much sacrifice given for us to live. I want to look back and feel like I contributed. I want experiences that ensure I don't take the rest of life for granted.”

Updated: 07/06/2023 11:57AM