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She Fixed Planes When She Was Enlisted; Now She Wants to Fly Them as an Officer

By Betsy Hnath

Few students get to view their campus from the ground and the air. Old Dominion University's Olivia Huber hopes to be one of them.

Huber, a 25-year-old junior, developed a love for aviation while maintaining aircraft during a four-year Navy enlistment. Thanks to a two-year Navy ROTC scholarship, Huber may soon climb into the cockpit.

"I want to be a pilot," Huber said. "My second choice is a naval flight officer, but I really want to fly."

Flying fighter planes isn't the typical career choice for a young woman from a small Minnesota town. The youngest of three girls, Huber grew up in Excelsior, on Lake Minnetonka.

While Huber's two sisters took the traditional route and headed to college right after high school, Huber considered the military after watching them struggle with the expense.

When Huber didn't get a four-year Naval Academy scholarship, she enlisted instead.

"I met with the recruiter and it seemed like a good plan," she said. "I'd get the GI Bill, I could travel and I could work on aircraft."

Huber's mother, initially shocked by the decision, soon recognized the benefits.

"I think she was sad I wasn't going to come home on weekends or the summers like my sisters did," Huber said. "But she was happy about it, too. She saw it was right for me."

Huber trained as an aviation electronics technician after boot camp, but her first assignment was in the galley on the final deployment of the USS Enterprise.

"Every job is important, and you have to keep that in mind. Even if it's just cleaning dishes, it's part of a bigger picture," Huber said.

Huber worked on F-18 Super Hornets three years into her enlistment while stationed at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach. She was hooked.

"By the time I actually got to my shop and was doing the job I signed up for, I actually really enjoyed it," she said. "But I didn't just want to work on the planes; I really wanted to fly them."

Huber left Virginia when she got out of the Navy, but it wasn't long before she came back.

"I took some classes at DePaul University in Chicago, but I missed the Navy and the planes," she said.

A friend advised Huber to look at ROTC scholarship options. One of the schools she found was familiar.

"When ODU came up on one of my searches, I was excited," she said. "I knew the area and knew the school from my time in the Navy."

Huber connected with the Navy ROTC office.

Though she didn't qualify for a three-year ROTC scholarship - she was missing some prerequisite classes - Huber won a competitive two-year scholarship. Only 88 of more than 200 applicants were selected based on GPA, military aptitude score, academic major and physical readiness score.

To maintain her scholarship, Huber - like all Navy ROTC midshipmen - is required to meet on campus at 5:30 a.m. three days a week for an hour of exercise. Formation drills are rehearsed the other two days.

Because 25 percent of Old Dominion University's student population is military-affiliated, it wasn't long before Huber bumped into someone she knew.

"I ran into one of my old co-workers from the Navy in the hallway on campus," Huber said. "I didn't know he was even going here."

Huber credits her professors and ODU tutoring centers for her 3.85 GPA. She also believes her prior service plays a major role.

"I think enlisting and growing up a little bit helped. I'm a better student," she said. "I can't imagine going to college right out of high school. What would I have done?"

She's eyeing spring 2020 for graduation, but Huber has already begun studying for the flight school exam.

"It's supposed to be really hard," she said. "I bought about five books to help me study for it. But if I figure if I've done this well so far, I can keep going and get up in the air."

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