OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- It’s not every day that you get to pilot an F-16 fighter jet while one of your best friends fills the back seat. Let alone, a friend whose medical expertise, saved your Air Force flying career.
For Capt. Louis Bloom, 36th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot and Maj. Christopher Ng, 51st Medical Operations Squadron general surgeon, their tour at Osan Air Base marks an unexpected milestone in both their friendship and career.
Both hailing from Randolph, Massachusetts, the Randolph High School graduates took on similar paths to serve their country and initiated their Air Force careers by attending the United States Air Force Academy.
The hometown friends successfully graduated from USAFA and continued onto their specified career training. Ng was on his way to technical training school to become a general surgeon and Bloom to Undergraduate Pilot Training.
It wasn’t long before the Air Force landed them both at Osan Air Base where they reconnected after several years. In the hopes of gratifying their reunion and hard work, Bloom requested for approval of a familiarization flight with Ng on board the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Unfortunately for the hometown friends, a motorcycle accident put a halt to the approved FAM flight.
“I was certain I was in a bad spot the moment I observed my wound,” Bloom said. “I had no idea how extensive my injury was or what would be required to fix it. I told Chris I had been in an accident and probably needed surgery. He said he’d meet me in the ER and sure enough, he was there waiting for me when I arrived.”
As Bloom was rushed through the emergency room doors, Ng tended to Bloom who suffered a serious knee injury. Leading the charge for Bloom’s surgical procedure and rehabilitation process, Ng’s expertise was instrumental to Bloom’s full and speedy recovery.
“The thoughts of my career began setting in,” Bloom said “I was sure my flying career would be on hold for months, if not forever.”
While Bloom patiently waited with an uncertain future, Ng was there from start to finish. Bloom credit’s Ng’s persistence for speeding up the recovery process. Because Bloom healed faster than expected, they were finally able to pull G’s, an increased gravitational pull, in a Fighting Falcon.
“Chris led the entire medical team from start to finish and made sure I knew exactly what I could expect from the procedure,” Bloom said. “After sharing my story with family and friends in the medical field, I am certain he and the rest of the 51st Medical Group helped me return to flying well ahead of the expected timeline.”
Taxiing the flightline, the two reminisced about their fondest high school, USAFA and Osan memories while passing the F-16 hangars. Finally, the two brace to launch thousands of feet in the air at over 400 miles per hour. While taking in the majestic view, Ng asks Bloom if he can pull a ‘G.’
Rolling the jet sideways and plugging the afterburner in, Bloom shared the rare experience with Ng of a high-G turn. After leveling out, Ng asks, “Can we do that again?!”
“The whole reason I entered the medical field was to be able to help people,” said Ng. “Being in a position to aid Louis when he sustained his injury gave me renewed purpose. Friendships like these are what forge camaraderie and encourage understanding among our troops, no matter the vast differences between our specialized fields.”
According to Bloom, it was a gratifying to honor the long awaited celebration and to solidify their friendship.
“It was very rewarding to take Chris for a familiarization flight in the jet,” said Bloom. “I felt like it was an unbeatable way to say thanks for encouraging me to pursue a journey in the Air Force and also for patching me up after my accident. Lifelong bonds like this are a huge part of what makes serving in the Air Force so special. You can’t make the mission happen without the people.”
After descending to land and departing the aircraft, Bloom was all smiles, glad to pay it forward to a loyal friend.
“It puts a smile on my face any time the 36th Fighter Squadron can share the thrill of fighter aviation with a member of Team Osan,” said Bloom. “This instance is exceptionally rewarding to me because of the positive impact Chris has made on my life.”