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Former Central Football Player Flies High as Helicopter Pilot

Posted: Sunday, December 19th, 2010 at 5:54 am
Author: KNIA/KRLS Sports-Eric Gotschall - information provided by Central College

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Nick Turner is living quite the life. The former Central College football player is now a member of one of the most elite military units in the nation; flying helicopters in the HMX-1 Squadron, which provides aerial support for the White House.

Ten years ago, Turner probably thought life couldn’t be much sweeter as he and his teammates celebrated one of the most memorable NCAA Division III playoff wins in Central history. Dubbed “The Miracle in the Mud” by former KNIA/KRLS broadcaster J.B. Connoley, the Dutch snuck away with a 20-17 win in Linfield, Oregon, after scooping up a botched field goal in overtime and scoring a touchdown. Turner was a starting free safety on that team and two others that made the Division III playoffs while posting a 37-3 regular season record in his four years at Central.

He joined the Marines after graduation in 2001, and in 2009 – after spending several years stationed in Hawaii and serving two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan – Turner was called up to the elite helicopter squadron known as “the Nighthawks”. The unit pilots Marine One, which transports the president – often on short notice. Turner credits the lessons he learned on the football field and in the classroom at Central College as part of the reason for his success, adding that counsel from now retired Central president David Roe and professor Jann Freed were valuable influences in his journey from Pella to Quantico, Virginia.

Nick Turner is in the first year of a four-year pilot rotation in the HMX-1 Squadron, and has co-piloted a flight for President Obama three times. The Nighthawks squadron includes 80 pilots and 800 Marines overall, four times more than any other Marine squadron. Its sole responsibility is to provide helicopter support for the president, vice president, dignitaries and foreign heads of state.

Only five Marines are allowed to serve as pilot for the president and each must be in the fourth year of a rotation. They’re selected by a board and Turner’s next dream is landing one of those spots.