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Senior Airman Corey Cornell: Not just a holiday weekend

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Grossi
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Reserve Citizen Airmen experienced a later unit training assembly this month due to the celebration of America’s Independence Day occupying reservists’ traditional weekend of training. All over America, servicemembers and citizens alike attended displays of fireworks, reconnected with their families at barbecues or attended festivals in reverence of our nation’s birth. And because it’s just a good time. For one Airman at YARS, holidays like the Fourth of July aren’t just times of reverie but times to reflect. They act as a riptide, pulling him from soft sand beaches into the surf of service and duty. 

Senior Airmen Corey Cornell, a flight engineer with the 757th Airlift Squadron, may not have joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve on his 18th birthday, but the tug was there. Cornell felt that he, or anyone of able body and half-willing, should serve the country and the people who provided him with his life and opportunity. He entered service in his thirties, but his tall, six-foot frame was still sturdy from years of hunting and fishing with his family and exploring the outdoors around his home town of Port Allegany, Pennsylvania. With a stable job, a loving wife, two sons and a loyal dog, Cory Cornell took a look at all he had and decided it was time to give something back. 

It was in church where Corey met his wife Amber. At the time, they were only kids in fifth and sixth grade, Corey being the older of the two. It was a young love that took years to fully blossom.

“We started to date in my senior year of high school,” said Cornell. “That’s when it started to get real. Then at 24 we tied the knot and got married in May of 2014. We are always connected, whether we are at home or outside, we are always together. She’s definitely my other half, my better half.”

Shortly after getting married, Corey and Amber settled down, bought a house and decided to focus on building a family. 

“At first we were either going to get a dog or have children,” laughed Cornell. “I said a dog. We got our dog, Tank, about six years ago now, but we still ended up having children not long after that.”

The Cornell’s eldest son was born in 2016, followed two years later by their second. 

“They are total opposites. My eldest is energetic, a go-getter, gets in trouble, and the other is very laid back, cautious and apt to think before he does. The two make an awesome pair and the boys and Tank make an awesome match. The boys can rough house with Tank and he will wander off when he has enough. He’s playful and protective and just the best with those two–an awesome combination for a family.”

It wasn’t long after Cornell graduated college with an Associates in Applied Sciences for HVAC&R that he and Amber first tossed around the idea of enlisting in the Air Force Reserve. But it took until his 30th birthday for him to pull the trigger. 

“I didn’t like that gut feeling anytime there was a Memorial Day or festivity­–not serving,” admitted Cornell. “I turned 30 and I kind of said let’s do it. Amber has been on board for everything, which is amazing, because it’s a lot to be gone for so long.” 

To become a flight engineer, Cornell had to first attend Basic Military Training, followed by technical school, which lasted 12 months. He chose his profession based on a colleague’s recommendation who serves at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, New York. 

“He was very gung-ho about it,” revealed Cornell. “At first, he said loadmaster, and then he said flight engineer. He pulled out his phone and showed me this beautiful picture of Niagara Falls shot from inside a banking plane. He said it was the best view in the plane and all you have to do is read some gauges.”

Cornell swiftly found out the job entailed a bit more than just reading gauges. 

An Air Force Reserve flight engineer is responsible for several tasks to ensure the aircraft is safe and secure before, during and after flight. They are expected to handle in-flight instrumentation and control and monitor warning systems, are involved in preflight engine startup and post-flight engine shutdown, assist ground maintenance personnel with engine tests, perform aircraft weight and balance calculations, control their assigned aircraft’s engines during a flight and much, much more. 

Cornell is still new to the career path but has spent a lot of time flying since May of 2021.

“It’s pretty amazing to say that this is what I do,” said Cornell. “We just recently flew over Lake Erie doing touch-and-go’s. And even though my focus is what’s happening within the flight deck, I couldn’t help but notice each time we would pass over, there were more and more people showing up until the one parking lot was full. Children were climbing fences, people were waving. It’s pretty rewarding.” 

While continuing his on-the-job-training, Cornell spends his free-time in his camper trailer located at the YARS Fam Camp which neighbors the YARS wetland preservation, to be minutes away from his work and training. 

“It’s a handy place to rest your head after you get back at 11 o-clock or midnight,” said Cornell. “My wife Brings the kids down on UTAs since I can’t get away, but thus far, Fam Camp has been very rewarding. I’m thankful for it.“ 

As a civilian, Cornell is employed as the Lead HVAC technician & Electrician at his local hospital, UPMC Cole. A profession he chose shortly after graduating high school.

“Sitting down and figuring out exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life is an absolutely huge decision,” said Cornell. “I sat down with my dad and talked to a lot of people and decided on HVAC. So far it’s been really good to me.”

But Cornell has no intention of spending his golden years still honing his craft. By age 55 he and Amber are shooting for an early retirement on the beaches of St. Augustine, Florida. 

Reflecting back, Cornell said his first job was with a good company and one of the first things his father advised was to set up his retirement, to forget about it, and “the next thing you know you’ll have a lot more than you ever thought you would.”

“55 and done,” said Cornell. “I don’t know what the future is going to look like with economics and stuff like that. But we’re going to work a lot of years and want to enjoy what we have left. We love travel, we love Florida, and our main goal is to get a place down there.”

Whether an individual just graduated high school or recently celebrated their 30th birthday with their spouse and kids, opportunities abound to serve as a Reserve Citizen Airman. From pilots and mechanics to healthcare and cyber careers, part-time jobs with full-time benefits are available in the Air Force Reserve. Those interested in learning more about becoming a flight engineer or feeling the urge to serve in their own way can contact a YARS Air Force Reserve recruiter by calling 330-609-1323.