UI alumni to fly fighters over Kinnick for Military Appreciation

Col. Craig Andrle and Lt. Col. Nicholas Edwards, University of Iowa alumni of the UI’s Air Force ROTC, will fly the 388th Fighter Wing over Kinnick Stadium for the Iowa-Minnesota game on Saturday.

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Ayrton Breckenridge

Members of the Iowa Air Force ROTC talk at a showing of the F-35A Lightning II fighter aircrafts at the Eastern Iowa Airport on Nov. 12, 2021. Four of these aircrafts will flyover Kinnick Stadium during the No. 19 Iowa and Minnesota football game on Nov. 13, 2021. Two of the pilots are University of Iowa alumni, 388th Fighter Wing commander Col. Craig Andrle is one and the other is 388th Operations Group deputy commander Lt. Col. Nicholas Edwards.

Rachel Schilke, Senior Print Editor


As fans and players from both Iowa and Minnesota listen to the National Anthem play, four fighter aircrafts will fly over the stadium on Saturday to honor U.S. veterans.

Flying two of the aircrafts on Saturday’s Military Appreciation Game will be two University of Iowa graduates: 388th Fighter Wing commander Col. Craig Andrle and 388th Operations Group deputy commander Lt. Col. Nicholas Edwards.

The 388th Fighter Wing — the Air Force’s first combat operational F-35A unit — is stationed in Utah, and all pilots will be flying F-35A Lightning II fighter aircrafts, the Air Force’s most advanced multi-role planes. 

Andrle, who graduated from the UI in 2000 and was in the Air Force ROTC, said in a press conference that it is a great opportunity to participate in Saturday’s flyover.

“It’s something I’ve kinda dreamt about ever since I started flying fighters was getting a chance to do a flyover at a Hawkeye game,” he said. “So, it’s an honor.” 

Andrle has participated in six flyovers, usually over NASCAR and patriotic events at bases the wing visits. He said the four aircrafts will take off from the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids, and while the team doesn’t specifically prepare for the flyovers, “timing is an important part of everything we do.”

The wing presented the four aircrafts at the airport on Friday to both UI and Iowa State University Air Force ROTCs, as well as family members of the ROTC commanders.

UI Air Force ROTC Cadet Kristopher Koberg, one of the cadets at the showing, was no stranger to these fighter aircrafts. He went to the flight academy in Pensacola, Florida, and was one of the first cadets to fly solo.

“You just feel really empowered, you’re doing all the controls by yourself,” Koberg said. “There’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like it, it’s a very different experience being in a trainer aircraft versus an airliner or something like that. It’s pretty blissful.”

Iowa Air Force ROTC Cadet Kristopher Koberg poses for a portrait at a showing of the F-35A Lightning II fighter aircrafts at the Eastern Iowa Airport on Nov. 12, 2021. Four of these aircrafts will flyover Kinnick Stadium during the No. 19 Iowa and Minnesota football game on Nov. 13, 2021. Two of the pilots are University of alumni, 388th Fighter Wing commander Col. Craig Andrle is one and the other is 388th Operations Group deputy commander Lt. Col. Nicholas Edwards. (Ayrton Breckenridge)

Prior to the showing, he said he was looking forward to seeing the fighters and learning from Andrle, Edwards, and the rest of the 388th Fighter Wing team.

At Saturday’s game, Koberg said around 40 Army and Air Force cadets, including him, will hold the American flag on Duke Slater Field during the national anthem.

Also among the onlookers was UI gymnast Kendall Laplante. Laplante, who is not in ROTC but has been interested in becoming a fighter pilot her whole life, said her entire family is in the military, and any branch of the military appeals to her.

“About a year ago, I started doing research on being a pilot,” she said. “And I found a bunch of fighter jets, F-22, F-35, that I was really interested in, and ever since then, that’s been kind of my dream.”

Laplante said she received permission to come look at the planes after UI Athletics videographer and assistant director Chris Ruth heard about the event and asked the 388th Fighter Wing if she could come and learn about flying.

“I got the call yesterday and I was, like, freaking out,” she said. “I actually pulled into the parking lot and I almost started crying when I saw [the fighters].”

She said what really interested her about Friday’s showing was meeting “an actual pilot” like Andrle.

“I’ve talked to a couple pilots, but not anybody that flies an actual fighter jet that I’m interested in,” she said. “He was telling me it’s really awesome, the people you meet and you know, it’s kind of like a team aspect, kind of like what I’m already doing. He just really talked it up and I loved it.”

Iowa gymnast Kendall Laplante talks with 388th Fighter Wing commander Col. Craig Andrle at a showing of the F-35A Lightning II fighter aircrafts at the Eastern Iowa Airport on Nov. 12, 2021. Laplante has an interest in becoming a fighter pilot. Four of these aircrafts will flyover Kinnick Stadium during the No. 19 Iowa and Minnesota football game on Nov. 13, 2021. Two of the pilots are University of alumni, Andrle is one and the other is 388th Operations Group deputy commander Lt. Col. Nicholas Edwards. (Ayrton Breckenridge)

Andrle said in his junior year of ROTC, he submitted an application for a pilot slot and was accepted. 

“As soon as I got to pilot training, I knew it’s what I wanted to do,” he said.

He said over a 21-year career, the things he remembers most are coming home to see his family after deployments. Andrle completed two tours in Iraq and two to Afghanistan.

Andrle added that it is an honor to get to take time with ROTC cadets and motivate them to fly fighters, and he said he’s excited for tomorrow’s game against Minnesota.

“I think the thing I’m looking forward to tomorrow is one, a Hawkeye victory and keeping Floyd here,” he said. “Two, is coming back from the flyby and seeing my wife, who was a state champion in the 800 at Iowa…Becky Andrle, and my four kiddos when we get back to the stadium.”

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