High-Flying Dreams Took Andrew Frey from Small-Town Iowa to SkillBridge Success in Florida

The straight-line distance between Denver, Iowa and Plant City here in Florida is about 1,166 miles.

It’s a journey that took Andrew Frey decades. But he’s not done yet. His story is a prime example of persistence, assisted by Veterans Florida guidance through the SkillBridge program.

Denver, Iowa is a town of about 2,000 people north of Waterloo and Cedar Falls in the heart of the state in the heart of the Midwest. While the larger, better known city with the same name in Colorado is known as “The Mile High City,” the Iowa counterpart is more humbly called “The Mile Wide City.”

A football star in high school, Andrew – who friends call “Frenchy” – went to play wide receiver at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri before transferring to Minnesota State in Mankato.

As far as his future, Andrew’s goals had been modest until that point.

“I didn’t plan on the military at all,” he said. “I was looking at something in sports like marketing or a PE teacher.”

But as a junior at Minnesota State, his future plans became clear.

“I was looking through the course catalog and thought to myself, ‘Whoa! I could be a pilot!’” he remembers. “I jumped into aviation and signed up for the classes the next semester.”

Andrew graduated in 2010 and began obtaining his flight instructor rating. But the money ran out. His goal remained but the journey changed with a stop back home in Denver.

“I was working three jobs to make ends meet. Pharmacist technician. Paraprofessional in school. Coached football and basketball,” Andrew said.

With funding stabilized, Andrew began working with the Marine Corps to get a guaranteed aviation contract and a chance to go to Officer Candidate School. On track and progressing again, he got word that the Marines were no longer going to do aviation contracts.

Thwarted again, Andrew turned to the Navy. This time, he was cleared for takeoff, earning an Officer commission from the Navy in Newport, Rhode Island.

He completed flight training in the P-8A Poseidon while graduating as a pilot. He moved on to primary and advanced flight training in the T-34C and TC-12B.

After a stint at NAS Jacksonville where he met his wife, Andrew became an Aircraft Commander, an NROTC flight instructor and advisor at the University of Illinois.

After nearly ten years in the service, he left as a Tactical Action Officer on the USS Abraham Lincoln and wanted to set his sights on his ultimate goal of becoming a pilot with a legacy carrier.

Andrew went to the SkillBridge website and saw an opportunity at Legends Airways in Lakeland, close to where his wife grew up.

“I did some research and (this position) was awesome,” he said.

With the help of Veterans Florida, he put together an application, updated his resume and successfully interviewed for the position.

Andrew got out a little more than two weeks ago and stepped straight into a new job as an instructor at Legends, teaching others while earning his hours to get the 1,500 needed to start with a large, legacy carrier.

Veterans Florida “made the process a lot simpler and easy to understand. And that’s a big thing,” he said.