If you’re headed to pilot training, you absolutely must read our 3-part series on Winning UPT. It explains how to perform well in your training program. However, that’s just part of your life at that point. Today we’re going to discuss how being smart with your finances will help you do better at UPT, and set you up for success later in life.
- Perspective – Start With Why
- Earnings Review
- Saving and Investing
- More Perspective
Perspective – Start With Why
If you want to do well at UPT, you need to stay focused on why you’re there. Your ultimate goal is to become a combat-qualified aviator in the greatest Air and Space Force the world has ever known. With that in mind, you should put the vast majority of your time and energy for that year into studying, chair-flying, and whatever else it takes for you to excel in this program.
Let’s be honest, you’re probably not used to this. Was college 4-5 years of razor-sharp focus on your studies…or did you spend plenty of time enjoying yourself? Were there sports, social gatherings, pursuing romance, road trips, and other distractions?
It turns out, that’s okay in college. Most schools require core/gen ed classes to make you a well-rounded person, but they’re not all so rigorous that they prevent you from also allowing your general life experiences to make you well-rounded.
Make no mistake though, UPT is not about breadth. Your entire year in that program is razor-focused on getting you to build some pretty specific skills as an aviator. It’s important to maintain balance in life, but you can maintain that balance while crafting your environment to maximize your professional development.
We’re going to look at ways to do this through the lens of pilot personal finance. Part of the reason for this is that I just wrote a book on the subject, Pilot Math Treasure Bath, and I feel like I have some authority on the subject. This topic is near and dear to my heart, and I truly believe that your career and life overall will be better if you consider the principles I discuss both here today and in that book. I also believe that the career earnings of a professional military pilot have the potential to set you up for financial independence and ultimate freedom in life…if you handle those earnings carefully.
The other reason basing this discussion on personal finance is that our entire society is shaped around a mindset of spending and consumerism. If you’re not careful, that culture will steal your attention from doing well in UPT and divert you to focusing on things that matter far less than flying jets and pulling Gs. Designing your life to avoid consumerism will protect you against those distractions.
We have an entire article explaining the pay and benefits you’ll receive during your first year in the military. However, here’s a summary to refresh our minds:
|Gov. TSP Match
This is pretty amazing money these days for a college graduate with zero marketable skills. After living as a college student for a few years, this should feel downright luxurious. It’ll be tempting to start spending all this newfound money, but you shouldn’t! You’ll be better off, both professionally and financially if you minimize your “lifestyle inflation” and stay as frugal as possible during UPT. Here are some specific recommendations.
After living in less-than-fancy housing in college, you may be tempted to splurge now that you have a real job. Don’t do it! You’re far better off staying with something simple as long as it’s clean and safe. Most Americans spend more on housing than anything else. If you can avoid starting your career with huge expenses there, you’ll set yourself up for everlasting financial success.
Thankfully, most UPT bases require single students to live in dormitories designated for student pilots. Although they’re called dorms, they’re better than what the average college freshman gets. You’ll have a living room, bedroom, kitchen, and your own private bathroom. It won’t feel spacious or airy, but it’s more than enough for a year of focused professional development.
If you’re in the dorms you won’t get the $8,964 in BAH from the table above, but that’s okay. You won’t have to worry about yard care, house maintenance, utility bills, or a lot of other headaches that come from living in a bigger place. You’ll also realize other economic and lifestyle benefits we’ll discuss shortly.
Your dorm has to serve several purposes. It’s a social, living, and eating space. However, it’s also your primary location for studying. Make sure you set things up to maximize that study time and minimize distractions.
Sometimes bases run out of dorm space and offer pairs of single officers the chance to share one of the family units in regular base housing. This isn’t a bad option, but there are some things to watch out for:
- You’ll have to spend precious study or relaxation time on things like mowing your lawn. (Air Force housing offices are notorious for inspecting the height of your grass with a ruler, and tattling to your commander if you’re out of regulations.)
- You’ll have to cover higher utility bills than you would have in the dorms.
- Living in base housing can mean more distractions. Sharing common areas with a roommate is either great for studying, or disastrous. You may need to agree to lock yourselves in your room or other study area on base to focus for part of the evening. It’s also tempting to host a lot of social gatherings for your UPT class when you have a nice big space where everyone fits. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as you do it deliberately. You don’t want your whole class hanging out every evening, or nobody will ever accomplish any studying.
Married UPT students (and even higher-ranking single students at some bases) will have the option to also live in base housing, or live off-base. This can be nice, but it comes with some of the same distractions as living in base housing.
No matter what, you should not even consider buying a house as a UPT student! Pilot training bases are not located in cities with the potential for major property value appreciation. Buying a house comes with a host of realtor fees and other closing costs that you will never recoup in value. Even if a house does appreciate, it won’t be enough to justify those extra costs in one year.
If you’re living off-base, find something reasonable to rent. It needs to be a clean house in a safe area, but don’t waste your money on something fancy. A single UPT student living off-base should absolutely consider getting a roommate, but even married officers could make a lot of money by sharing a property with someone else.
Your BAH is a tax-free housing allowance, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend it all every month! You should try to find a place that rents for less than your BAH and invest the rest. If you invest $100 per month during your year at UPT, at even a mediocre 5% return, that $1,200 will nearly double by the time your 10-year ADSC is finished, and more nearly triple by the time you retire.
That may not seem like much, but what if you and a roommate shared a place that allowed you to invest half of your $747 BAH? That year’s worth of savings will grow to more than $7,000 by the time your ADSC is up, or nearly $12,000 by the time you retire. That could go a long way toward a down payment on a nice house in a nice place, college for your kids, at boat, or some other type of treasure.
Some will say that it’s okay to buy a house because you might end up as a First Assignment Instructor Pilot, or FAIP. Sure, if you’re going to be stuck at this base for 3-4 years after UPT, there’s a case for owning a home. However, even that is a short timespan for home ownership.
If your family can’t live without owning a home during an assignment as a FAIP, make sure you prioritize safe and convenient over fancy. Save your fancy living for a future assignment at a nicer place. I recommend trying to find something that can become an investment property in the future. Even if you stay in the same place for a full 4-years, you’ll lose a lot of money to realtor fees and other closing costs by selling when you move away. If you can find a property that you can hold on to and rent out after you move away, you’ll get a jump-start on your life as an investor.
If you’re interested in buying a property as a future investment, I recommend you start reading everything you can find on a website called BiggerPockets.com. Here’s a good article to get you started. Another good resource is a friend that I used to fly U-28s with. His name is Jeremy Porto and he’s rapidly forming a real-estate empire. He loves helping military people make better decisions about real estate and loves discussing real estate investing. Please get in contact with him before you start shopping!
Choosing the right living situation is important to minimize distractions and save money. Having a roommate for one year could potentially earn future-you more than $12,000! Don’t buy a house unless you’re really committed to making it an investment for the future.
Don’t worry if you get stuck in the dorms on base and miss out on all that tax-free BAH. These dorms have lots of advantages, one of which is simplifying your transportation needs.
It’s easy to tell when you’re at a base with young officers or enlisted troops because the parking lots are filled with shiny new sports cars and trucks. Knowing that you will only earn a maximum of $54K this year, the idea of buying a vehicle that costs $40K or more should sound ridiculous to you. (For an enlisted troop that makes less than half of what you do, the kind of purchase should seem even more ridiculous.) Don’t be one of these morons!
Are fancy cars and trucks cool? Yes. Are they fun to drive? Absolutely! Would I enjoy owning one? Probably. That said, there are more important things in your life–now and in the future.
Let me ask you this: do you, a future military aviator, think your car is going to do more to make you cool than your job will?
For the rest of your life, when you go to parties and people ask: “So what do you do?” you’re going to reply that you fly the biggest, baddest jets that humankind has ever created. Your poor friends are going be thinking to themselves, “Wow. I work in a cubicle for a meaningless company. I suck.”
The prestige and satisfaction that comes from your job are so immense, that the car you drive cannot possibly have any impact. If your non-pilot friends follow up their first question by asking what you drive, it’s an immediate sign that they feel inadequate and are desperately trying to compensate. Pitty them for not being pilots, but don’t waste your time trying to compete on this front. Tell them you get your rocks off flying fast and pulling Gs and that what you drive doesn’t matter.
Sure, you could get a brand-new 2019 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCab (with the 5.0L V-8) and drive a really cool truck. However, it’ll cost you $19,000 during your year at UPT, and a total of $47,622 over five years. Do you want to spend $19K of the $54K (38%) of your income on a vehicle?
You could also buy yourself a nice used Toyota Camry. It’ll only cost you $7,500 this year and $26,917 over five years. If you chose the used Camry and invested the difference, you’d end up with $18,732 after 10 years, or $30,513 after 20 years! Either way, you’ll be flying amazing aircraft and doing things that most pedestrians can only ever dream of. You will not be less cool for choosing a more affordable car. (An even better option would be to keep driving a car that you’ve owned for years. Hopefully you chose a reasonable car back then too.)
If you are lucky enough to live on base, I recommend challenging yourself to drive as little as possible for your year at UPT. I rode a bicycle to work for most of my time as a student at Laughlin. It cost me $125, used, and almost zero upkeep. Sure, I drove places on evenings and weekends, but I saved a lot of money on fuel and upkeep by driving my car less.
If you’re married and have two cars, I’d honestly consider selling one of them before you start UPT. Just the savings on insurance will be significant. You’re going to be at work or studying most of the time and your spouse or significant other can have the car. If you need to drive somewhere, chances are that person will be going with you anyway. (You’ll be so busy during this year that you’ll be looking for every chance you can get to spend time together.) On rare occasions where you have different places to go beyond biking range, one of you should be able to catch a ride with a friend or classmate.
We’ll talk more about the places you may need to drive shortly. First though, let’s consider the next largest expense for most Americans: eating.
One of the defining characteristics of UPT is that you never have enough time…for anything. It’ll be tempting to make extra time by getting most or all of your food from restaurants. Nowadays, apps like Uber Eats and GrubHub will even bring that food right to your door. Please be smarter than this!
First off, restaurant food isn’t always the healthiest. An average Chipotle burrito has more than half the calories and all the sodium you need in a day. (If you’re at Laughlin you won’t have to worry about this because Del Rio, TX, is too small-time to even have a Chipotle.)
Second, ordering food is expensive–especially if you add a home delivery fee.
There are better ways to eat healthy food for far less money without spending all your free time in the kitchen. Check out this article on PennyHoarder for some thoughts about meal planning.
The idea is that you come up with a list of 10 or so recipes that you really enjoy eating. Ideally, these dishes also work well as leftovers. You’re a pilot, so planning ahead is a critical skill for the rest of your life. Plan ahead what meals you want for the week and do one quick shopping run. When you cook, make enough for 2-3 meals worth and put the extras in the fridge or freezer. That way, it’s quick and easy to reheat something at night so you can get right back to studying or relaxing. If you prepare three portions per dish, you could make an entire week of dinners by cooking just twice.
I also recommend bringing your own lunch to work. When you start, at least at Air Force UPT, you’ll be on “formal release.” This means you’re stuck in your class’ flight room all day long. You’re allowed out to fly (aircraft or simulators) and use the restroom. However, you’re expected to be in there studying for the rest of the day. In this situation, you need to bring lunch with you. This situation lends itself to sandwiches, salads, or leftovers anyway.
After a while of this obnoxious forced study environment, your class will “earn” the right to go to the gym during the day or going elsewhere to eat lunch. As long as you’ve been studying and you’re ready for your next flight, you should go to lunch with your class. It’s important to relax and socialize when you can. However, don’t feel obligated to buy your lunch where you go. I proudly carried a brown bag to lunch many times during UPT and received little or no shit for it. In fact, my classmates respected my frugality, noting that I’d probably be richer than them some day for it. It’s okay to give in sometimes and get that Chipotle burrito, but if you make that the exception, you’ll be saving money that adds up to many thousands of dollars after it’s invested.
At this point, you’re probably expecting me to say that you should avoid all entertainment and only study during UPT, right?
Actually, I believe that entertainment (in moderation) is very important. If you spend an entire year on nothing but studying you’ll be miserable. I assert that your performance in the program will eventually decrease overall if you don’t take time to relax.
Some stress in life is a good thing. It actually enhances performance to a point. However, too much stress in the short- or long-term is not good. You should take breaks from studying. You should zone out and watch some TV. You should take weekend trips with your friends to Fort Worth or Austin or…Tuscaloosa? (Sorry Columbus AFB.)
The key here is the moderation I mentioned. While there’s nothing wrong with watching an episode of Stranger Things at night, bingeing an entire season will impact your ability to prepare for the next day.
Maybe you grew up spending entire weekends watching every football game on the air. While that can be a fun way to spend the day, what if you just watched your favorite team play and then got back to studying? Would that make your life worse?
Once I started flying for the Air Force, a lot of TV was never the same again. Does Tom Cruise make a good Hollywood action flick? You bet. However, no movie he has ever made can compare to some of the flying I’ve done. Are pro athletes capable of impressive feats on the court or field? Absolutely. However, none of them will ever be as cool as a team of special operators taking out a compound in the mountains of Afghanistan. Watching sports may be fun, but it will never bring you the fulfillment of being an integral part of that Spec Ops team’s success that night, and getting to debrief with them when you land.
Just like with your car, the things you do as a military pilot will be far cooler than anything you could ever accomplish watching TV on a couch. Focus your time on what really matters, at least for this one year.
This mindset will have the added effect of saving you a lot of money. The default for America’s culture of mindless consumerism is that the day you get a real job, you sign up for a cable plan that costs $100 per month, or more. What if you went without cable for this year?
Remember, I didn’t say no TV. Why not subscribe to one streaming service at a time for $10-15 per month instead? You’re not watching an entire season a night, so you should be able to enjoy the shows on one service before needing to cancel and move on to the next one.
If you’re not careful, you might realize that you don’t ever want or need cable. If you can avoid that monthly bill for your entire career and invest the savings, it’ll earn you $15K in 10 years, or $41K in 20 years.
Less weekend sports watching also saves money in other ways. It’s fun to go to a sports bar or bring lots of food and drink to a friends house to watch a big game. If you spend all day there, you’re going to end up spending a lot of money on food and booze. You may end up in a state that requires an expensive Lyft ride home too, and you’re not going to get any useful studying done.
It’s good, even important, to hang out with your friends and socialize on the weekends. However, plan to stay for the big game and budget your consumption so that you’ll have both the time to study later, and the faculties to study effectively.
Another common thought process in American culture is that once you graduate from college and get a job, you get to start buying everything you ever wanted. Many (stupid) people accrue huge amounts of debt buying toys and filling their houses or apartments with nice things. Even slightly-less-stupid people manage to avoid debt, yet fail to save for their future. Be better than this!
There is no need to buy a bunch of fancy furniture, gaming systems, recreational equipment, or other toys during your year at UPT. You don’t have the time to use it! There’s no need to buy a new wardrobe of stylish clothes. You’re going to be proudly wearing a green bag to work everyday and you don’t need to go out every night. In fact, I assert that you probably don’t need a single new piece of clothing because what you had in college is still fine.
You’d think that living in a small town like Del Rio, Columbus, Wichita Falls, or Enid would mean that you have less temptation. Unfortunately, some jerk named Jeff Bezos ruined that for all of us. It turns out that the relative isolation and overall stress of UPT (and, in my experience, living in deployed locations) actually makes you more prone to use online shopping as an outlet.
Resist the urge to shop recreationally, and try hard to remind yourself that you don’t need toys while you’re at UPT. If you find yourself logged in to a shopping website, ask yourself why you aren’t studying instrument flying procedures instead. Then put down your phone or computer and go back to what matters.
Nothing you could ever buy on Amazon or anywhere else will bring as much joy and fulfillment into your life as you’ll get from military aviation. Focus on doing your best for at least this year at UPT. If you want to buy some toys later on in life, that’s fine…but save it for another time.
I hope you’ve gathered that I believe you need balance in life. All work and no play is not healthy. It’s okay to take time for fun and relaxation. If you’re in a romantic relationship, you also need to include that in your overall life balance. I can tell you from sad experience that no success as a military aviator can make up for the consequences of a failed marriage.
That said, you do need to spend a lot of time studying. There is more aviation knowledge in the world than any person could obtain in a single year. If you’re on Active Duty, the aircraft you get to spend the rest of your career flying depends in part on your ability to study effectively. The truth is that an intelligent person can enjoy and find fulfillment no matter what aircraft he or she flies. However, it still feels good to earn the right to choose what you get.
I recommend scheduling your time into specific categories. When you aren’t flying or at the sim, you’ll be spending the rest of your workday in your flight room. Get as much studying done then as possible! If you’re capable of accomplishing meaningful studying at work, then you can get by with 30-90 minutes of additional studying at home. In my experience as a UPT IP, the students who did best were the ones who had balanced lives because they studied hard at work and had the time to take care of everything else in the evenings.
Make sure you set aside time for healthy eating, rest, exercise, socializing, and recreation. Again, you can save time with a lot of these things by planning ahead or making sure you enjoy them in moderation. However, planning out how much you allot to each one will help.
Saving and Investing
Though we’ve mostly addressed it in broad terms so far, I believe it’s critical to start investing in your future as a 2Lt or Ensign. At the very least, you need to contribute enough to your TSP each month to get the government’s match. If you don’t understand how to do that and need help, ask! Even your IPs will enthusiastically help you figure out the basics of using myPay and setting up your TSP.
In my book, I noted that the average annual spending for an American family is somewhere around $57K. Since you’ll only make $54K during your year at UPT, you can’t even spend as much as the average family. If you’re single you shouldn’t need to do this anyway though.
If we assume you live on base and don’t get BAH, your income will be about $45,000 during your year at UPT. The average spending numbers I got from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics are for an “average” family of 2.6 people. If you divide the average spending number I got by 2.6 you end up with $22,214 in spending per year. Could you get by on that level of spending during a year in which you’ll be living in a dorm eating and sleeping UPT? I sure hope so!
If you can limit your spending to that number, you’ll be able to invest a whopping $22,8111 this year. That’s a pretty awesome start to filling up a Treasure Bath. If you invest that money at 5% interest, it will grow to more than $37,000 by the time your UPT commitment is up, or a staggering $60,524 if you can manage to not touch it until you retire after 20 years!
That’s a lot of money, but there’s an even more important point here. If you save like this during your first year in the Air Force, you’ll build habit patterns that carry forward. It’ll be addictive to invest so much money and see it grow. You’ll also realize that you can enjoy an awesome life without trying to buy happiness. You’ll be able to continue saving and investing most of your income throughout your career.
If you can carry these habit patterns forward, it’s possible to retire from the military and have more than $1,000,000 in the bank. When you couple the investment returns you’ll get from your nest egg with your military pension, you could have $80K-90K per year to spend for the rest of your life, without even depleting the principle in your investments. You’ll be able to live like that even if you never work another day in your life.
However, if you do choose to keep working, as most of us will, the money you’ve saved up will give you ultimate choice and flexibility in life. You don’t even have to stay in the military for a full 20-year retirement. If you save hard, it’d be realistic to have at least $340,000 in your TSP when you separate after your 10-year UPT ADSC is up. That’s enough money for you to live comfortably on if it takes you a while to find a job. Or, it’s a great jump start to some real wealth if you go on to a job with the airlines.
For your savings, I recommend you make it your goal to maximize your contributions to the TSP and a Roth IRA each year. For 2020 you can contribute up to $19,500 to your TSP and $6,000 to your Roth IRA. If you max-out these accounts, consider filling similar accounts for your spouse, or starting a 529 plan to save for your kids’ education. After that, you can just open what’s called a brokerage account for investing. As a military member, you’ll have access to USAA. They recently eliminated all fees for buying stocks and mutual funds. You can also invest with companies like Vanguard, Fidelity, and others.
I recommend you start by investing in low-fee total market (or S&P 500) index funds like VTSAX at Vanguard, or FXAIX at Fidelity. For your TSP, either start by putting everything in to the C-Fund, or the L-fund with the latest possible date. You’ll get plenty of advice from all kinds of people on investments. I encourage you to learn more about your options after your year at UPT. However, your money will be okay for a year if you part it in these kinds of funds and follow up later. (In fact, I recommend staying in these types of funds forever.)
You’ll be tempted to hire someone to help manage your finances for you. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re totally lost. However, before you pay anyone else go read The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins. If you still feel incapable of managing your own investments after that, then you can hire someone.
If you do hire a “pro,” look for a “fee-only” financial planner. It’ll cost you a couple hundred dollars for an hour or two of their time, but it may be worth it. Avoid hiring someone who charges a percentage of “assets under management. They’re a guaranteed 1% per year decrease in your investment returns, and they typically do worse than the funds I mentioned anyway. Do not, under any circumstances, pay someone who charges more than 1%, or if they charge you any fees upfront for anything other than the time they spend talking with you. If they say the word “load” followed by anything higher than 0.04%, run screaming from the building!
We could go into a lot more detail here, but it’s more than anyone could cover in one article. Go read Mr. Collins book (and/or mine) when you’re ready to expand your financial education.
You have a lot to look forward to in a career as a military aviators. When you finish UPT, you’ll be very fired-up and excited. If you’re on Active Duty, you’ll be confident that you’re going to serve for 20 years no matter what, and earn that coveted pension.
I hope you continue to enjoy your career, but please consider the fact that things may change for you. Just because you think you’ll have a pension now, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t save for your future. Even if you serve for a full 20 years, you’ll still have lots of life to live. If you fall into the mainstream habit pattern of spending every dollar you earn, you will be a slave to some type of work for your entire life. It’s not fun. If you can instead reach the kinds of savings targets I recommend, you can set yourself up for ultimate freedom in life. You’ll be able to pick and choose the jobs you want, no matter what they pay, because they’re fun or meaningful to you. You’ll be able to prioritize time with your family and doing the things you love. I cannot overstate how nice it is to have that freedom in life.
Although mainstream America will tell you otherwise, you do not need to live a life of deprivation to achieve the levels of savings I’m talking about. The spending numbers I came up with are based on average spending for American families. This includes things like buying new cars every few years, drinking Starbucks, going to concerts, and having pets. As long as you’re intentional about what you do spend, and you invest the rest, you can enjoy a great quality of life without ever having to feel deprived.
UPT is the perfect place to start building these habit patterns. You don’t need anything fancy or extravagant because you have more important things to worry about. Nothing you could buy this year will do as much to make you cool as earning the right to wear military pilot wings.
By working to reduce your spending, you’ll also help yourself focus on the studying you need to accomplish to reach your goals at the end of UPT. In summary:
- Live somewhere safe and clean, but not extravagant. If you live off-base, try to find a roommate and invest any BAH you don’t spend.
- If at all possible, live close enough to bike to work. Don’t be afraid to go out on the weekends, but don’t go crazy. Even a married couple doesn’t need two cars at UPT.
- Don’t give in to the temptation to eat restaurant food all year! With a little forethought, you can prepare larger batches of delicious meals and eat healthy, cheap, delicious food all week on just a couple hours of work.
- Relaxing is important, but enjoy it in moderation. Remember, you’re here to become a military pilot, so spend most of your time on that. Don’t waste money on expensive entertainment subscriptions when most of your time will be spent studying anyway.
- Don’t practice retail therapy. If you’re lonely or bored, call someone in your class and hang out. You can study for a while, then go work out or find something else to do. Nothing you could possibly buy this year will be as cool as the wings you’re earning.
- Your time is precious during your year at UPT. Spend what you need to on study, but be sure to take care of the other important things in your life.
- If you follow all of this advice, you’ll end up with a lot of “extra” money. Invest as much of it as you possibly can. It will set you up for success and give you options in the future.
UPT is one of the most fun, difficult, exciting, and stressful years in your military career. There are ways to succeed at work, but with some intentionality, you can also succeed financially and in the rest of your life. Take advantage of this opportunity to spend a whole year singly focused on learning your future craft. Learning to save and invest your money that year will grow habit patterns that will pay you dividends for the rest of your life. If you keep them up, you cannot help but ending up rich, in a life of fulfilling work with less stress. You deserve nothing less. Now, go get to work!
The feature image for this post is finance troop A1C Class Manuel Zataray holding a stack of…Jeffersons? If you do UPT right, you’ll graduate successfully and have even fatter stacks than this guy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos) https://www.dvidshub.net/image/5897226/finance-manages-funds
The pilots camped out in a lobby was actually a 4-ship formation briefing for a flyover. I’ve seen the same thing in the living room at a UPT student’s house. https://www.dvidshub.net/image/5905704/vance-afb-performs-4-ship-formation-bmt-graduation
The photo of 2Lt Aubrey Crawley studying is from: https://www.dvidshub.net/image/4556481/41st-fts-takes-students-and-molds-pilots
The bike to work photo is actually an Army Warrant Officer at a deployed location. It makes the point though, doesn’t it? https://www.dvidshub.net/image/5617974/alpena-crtc-fight-line-during-northern-strike-19
The gorgeous F-35 shot is from: https://www.dvidshub.net/image/5918842/f-35-demo-team-performs-aviation-nation-airshow
The photo of Air Force beating Army is from: https://www.dvidshub.net/image/5888076/air-force-football-vs-army
The photo of the Locketts at Travis is from: https://www.dvidshub.net/image/4255072/locketts-story-marriage-deployments-and-finger-guns