By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
“Join the Navy and see the world,” the saying goes.
The same could be said for the Air Force, which has bases in far-flung outposts from South Korea to the Azores.
However, 2nd Lt. Payton Jeppesen, a member of Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 13-13, already has seen part of the world.
Jeppesen, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spent his two-year Mormon mission in Prague, Czech Republic, from December 2005 to December 2007.
These days the Provo, Utah, native calls the 8th Flying Training Squadron at Vance Air Force Base home.
Jeppesen is a 2012 graduate in technology management from Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. He earned his commission through the ROTC program at Brigham Young University.
He has wanted to fly since his uncle took him up in a Cessna 172 when he was 12.
“He let me fly a little bit and ever since then, I’ve kind of got the bug,” he said.
Payton, 26, is the oldest of five children — three boys and two girls — the youngest of whom still is in junior high. He played football and was a golfer in high school.
In addition, he spent some time on the stage, taking part in dramas and musicals, including Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” and “Annie.”
“I like trying new things,” he said.
Payton and his wife, the former Lana Nielson, have been married since September 2011. She accompanied him to Enid for his training and recently opened a waxing studio.
“We’re trying to plant roots, somehow, and get involved in the community,” Payton said.
The couple grew up two blocks from one another, but didn’t meet until college.
“I had actually met her dad, her sister. I went to high school with her brother and her sister,” he said.
The demands of pilot training, plus relocation to Enid, have not been easy on the young couple, Payton said.
“We’ve only been married a little over a year,” he said. “During that first year we had to pick up and move to a place we’ve never been before, and dealing with the different lifestyle of the military. For both of us it’s kind of a new experience understanding the military lifestyle.
“It’s been hard, but we’ve done a pretty good job, I feel,” he said. “We spend time together on the weekends.”
The couple spent last Christmas in Enid, by themselves.
“It was our first Christmas alone away from family,” Payton said. “It was a very humble Christmas. We opened presents Christmas morning, but we didn’t have a Christmas tree.”
With track select approaching, Jeppesen is hoping to go to T-1s, with an eye on flying either C-21s or KC-135s.
“With the KC-135s I’m looking to go overseas,” he said of the tanker aircraft. “I’d love to go to England. My wife and I both love to travel.”
C-21s are the military equivalent of a Learjet, and are used to transport VIPs and senior officers from place to place.
Jeppesen tried to get his pilot’s license before coming to Vance, but ran out of money. He said the high quality of training is what sets military flying apart from civilian aviation.
“Just looking back at the quality trainers they have in the Air Force, there’s nothing better,” he said. “They are really there to help you learn, they are dedicated and hard-working. The syllabus we follow is really well done. They don’t give us more than we can handle, but they give us a lot.”