Three Trans States Military Pilots reflect on Memorial Day

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Trans States First Officer, Joshua Groth

Memorial Day is national holiday where American soldiers who have died are remembered for their active military service. Trans States is proud to share the reflections of military pilots Joshua Groth, Randall Zehnder, and Dennis Cruz this Memorial Day. Read more to learn why they serve(d) their country and how they applied military skills in commercial aviation careers with Trans States.

Seeing his father serve as a Crew Chief and fly helicopters in the army strongly inspired Josh to follow suit. Coming from a patriotic and military-centric family, the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree when Josh decided to join the army.

“I grew infatuated and fell in love with aviation, particularly helicopters, because I was always around them,” Josh said. “My father and my grandfathers all served in the military, and I’ve been in the army for nine years. When I was six years old Desert Storm took place and watching that helped me to understand that we have rights and freedoms that people defend. My responsibility to serve in the military was to ensure that we had the same freedoms as the ones who served before us.”

Currently, Josh serves as an Army National Guard Rotor Pilot as well as a First Officer with Trans States Airlines. He notes that there are remarkable similarities with each role.

“I initially joined Trans States because everybody genuinely enjoyed what they did, and it wasn’t just about punching in a ticket to get a paycheck,” Josh said. “I was really impressed by the camaraderie of the organization, much like my military family, and the opportunity to fly with other pilots who keep safety a top priority.”

This Memorial Day, Josh honored his fallen armed force colleagues by flying a helicopter during a memorial service at a local veteran’s cemetery.


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Captain Randall Zehnder at Tall Afar Air Force base.

Captain Randall Zehnder (Randy) served in the Air Force for five years and the Army National Guard for 25 years—retiring with 30 years of military service. Randy’s story is much like Josh’s in that his father also inspired him to explore aviation at a young age.

“My father showed me the importance of having a strong work ethic and obtained his private pilot license when I was ten years old,” Randy said. “When he took me flying I was hooked and decided that I wanted a pilot’s license as well. I was able to reach that goal while still in high school.”

When Randy initially enlisted, he began focusing on obtaining his commercial pilot’s license and instrument ratings. After leaving the Air Force, Randy joined the Army National Guard to take a rotary wing qualification course, and later became interested in transitioning from rotor to fixed wing flying.

“I began working with Trans States in June of 1984 and I’ve been here nearly 34 years,” Randy said. “When I started, the company’s name was Resort Air and had been flying two Metro II aircraft for about a year.”

Captain Randy’s career progressed, serving in management with Trans States for 20 years, and he has spent the last eight years training flight students and working as a System Chief Pilot.

“Trans States has been around for a long time,” Randy said. “From my early career days through today, I’ve learned that Trans States has some of the best crews to fly with the industry. We’ve also have had the ability to face challenges in the past, remain flexible, and always come out stronger than before in the ever-changing aviation industry.”

This Memorial Day, Randy spent his day relaxing with his wife and remembering those who died in the line of duty.


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First Officer, Dennis Cruz and family upon his homecoming from deployment in Winter 2014.

First Officer Dennis Cruz began his aviation career as a response to a need. 

“Aviation had not been a lifelong dream of mine,” Dennis said. “As a teenager, I was making poor choices, and dropped out of high school. Afterwards, I was encouraged to enter the military. I enlisted in the Marines and took the opportunity to fly. I fell in love with it and never looked back since then.”

Dennis served in the Marines for 20 years before joining Trans States. He was able to transfer skills such as flexibility, attention to detail, and his passion for safety to his new commercial aviation career.

“Trans States was the first airline I contacted! I had heard great things from a friend who was employed with the company.” Dennis said.

Success and advancement have trailed Dennis’ career. Dennis left Trans States in an attrition transition to American Airlines. Despite his current position at a coveted major airline, Dennis admits that he misses the dynamic he had with his Trans States colleagues.

“I genuinely miss the group of pilots I worked with at Trans States because they were all a great group of men and women to fly with.” Dennis said.

Dennis spent his Memorial Day in Dallas, while attending basic INDOC training.

To learn more about Trans States’ military pilot program, visit https://bit.ly/2scQUUX.

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