Most people don’t know what they want to do with their lives till they are past their school years and into a career they don’t like. Some people know what they want to do all their lives. When Maj. Lee Hayes was just a kid growing up in Tyrone, Pa., he watched Chinook helicopters roar through the sky over his little town. He knew he wanted to be a soldier and he knew he wanted to fly.
Now 40 years old and completing his second deployment in which he served as Task Force Diablo’s operations officer, Hayes is a soldier, a pilot, and has his eye on his next assignment. Hayes commanded an attack helicopter company from 1998 to 2000 and is looking forward to his next command. If all goes well, he will command an aviation battalion. “Commander is the best job in the Army,” said Hayes. “This is my second deployment as a staff officer. I want my next deployment to be as a commander.”
Hayes joined the Pa. Guard at age 17 serving first as an infantryman while he attended The Pennsylvania State University. He went to OCS (Officer Candidate School) just before graduation and served as an infantry platoon leader until he attended flight school in 1994.
After flight school he served as a scout platoon leader, flying AH-1 Cobra helicopters. He then became as an attack platoon leader in the 1-104th Aviation Battalion, also flying AH-1 Cobra helicopters. He remained in the 1-104th and became an attack company commander. In 2000 he switched to the Reconnaissance and Interdiction Detachment (RAID), an assignment that lead to one of the most fast-paced weeks in his aviation career. “On September 11, his unit was sent to New York City for reconnaissance and whatever else the security teams needed,” Hayes said.
“They arrived in New York the evening of September 11.”
“We flew wherever they needed us,” Hayes said. During the week they transported many VIPs and moved key people wherever they needed to go.
Hayes has worked full time for the Pa. Army National Guard since 2000. He deployed to Kosovo as assistant operations officer with 2-104th in 2002, part of the first National Guard deployment to that country. When he returns from this deployment he will continue serve in an AGR role at Fort Indiantown Gap. He plans to serve at least nine more years before he retires from the job he knew he always wanted.