Oxford native William "Buddy" Smith is about to embark on a new journey in the 24th year of a military career that's already seen a multitude of new experiences.
Not only will his new title read U.S. Marine Corps Colonel, but he was also the only reservist in all of the 4th Marine Air Wing to be selected to attend the U.S. Air Force's Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.
Smith's military career has been a whirlwind since he graduated from the University of Georgia in 1990, where he was first introduced to the Marine Corps.
After being accepted into the program and completing 12 weeks of officer candidates school, Smith attended flight school in Pensacola, Fla. and later in Corpus Christi, Texas; it was hist fiirst time flying airplanes.
He flew as a naval aviator in 1993 and from there began flying KC-130 "Hercules" airplanes.
Flight would be a constant in his civilian life, as he became a commercial airline pilot with American Airlines in 2000.
Smith didn't stay out of the military long, becoming a reservist in 2000. He was able to serve minimal time in the military, while at the same time maintaining a civilian job until 2002.
"At this time, I was involuntary mobilized - that's when things started getting interesting," Smith said.
Smith recalls being on vacation in Cancun, Mexico when he learned of the 9/11 attacks. Like every other American, he was deeply saddened and frightened by the events of that day.
"It was also very surreal because I knew I was going to be leaving very soon to some sort of military action," Smith said.
The anxiety Smith felt was overwhelming, considering he had never been deployed in combat for a full-blown operation before. In addition, he didn't realize the full magnitude of the effect of the attacks until he returned home from vacation.
"At that point, you don't really have time to feel. I knew to some degree I knew I was going to have to support the retaliation. I just didn't know how or what or why," Smith said.
When Smith began active duty, he made multiple combat missions throughout the world and in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Upon returning to Fort Worth, Smith was selected for the U.S. Air Force's Air War College in 2011.
"The Air War College has a ten-month syllabus and next May, I will be granted a master's degree in strategic studies," Smith said.
Smith was selected by a board of high-ranking officers to attend the Air War College, which he had to apply for.
The experience comes on the heels of a a two-year command tour of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234 (VMGR-234) based at the Naval Air Station/ Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, Texas.
After Smith graduates, he plans to return to his civilian career with American Airlines.