You are here

Military Appreciation Game: Tim O’Reilly

Tim O'reilly and the American flag
October 17, 2017

In 1987, Tim O’Reilly graduated from Mound Westonka High School. He had a goal to join the ROTC four-year Detachment 420 Cadet Program. O’Reilly explained, “To get into this program, a person competes for a position in the Air Force, but by sophomore year they know the slot that they have received. A person then has to qualify in a specialty program.”

O’Reilly believed UMD had a great education to offer him because it has national recognition. “My brother also went to UMD a few years before I did, and he enjoyed it.” O’Reilly also loved how Duluth and Northeast Minnesota has such great outdoor recreation program. Because Tim’s goal was to become a military officer, he joined the Air Force ROTC.

He believes that his transition was smooth coming to UMD and that the school aided in his development with good work ethic and great time management skills. After UMD, he was transitioning into the U.S. Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) and this was very difficult and had a high rate of attrition. O’Reilly said, “I thought the curriculum of the program was a nice change from the traditional curriculum of college. I enjoyed having 18 classmates from all different parts of the world and universities to go through this process together.”

O’Reilly’s first job after school was a copilot flying a modified Boeing 707, or WC-135, for the 55th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron in Sacramento, California. “After the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Band Treaty, pilots flew atmospheric sampling missions in which their job was to detect nuclear explosions anywhere in the world. It was exciting to be able to fly across the globe,”  O’Reilly recounted. He was also part of the group that started the OC-135 program that had permission to fly over the former Soviet Union.

O’Reilly’s story is remarkable, and it was a true honor to have him perform the fly-over for the Military Appreciation football game. He said, “I felt inspired after doing it.” It was 30 years to the month that he had moved into Lake Superior Hall at UMD and started his career as a Bulldog. “I felt a warm welcome from the football team, Bulldog fans, other alumni, and Bud Grant.” O’Reilly said, “It was so fun because he had worked for UMD Athletics as a soccer official in the 1980’s, and his boss had been Mick McComber.”

When O’Reilly is not deployed, his professional priority is flying the Boeing 767 for Delta Air Lines. O’Reilly said, “I am honored to be a part of the Delta family who wholeheartedly supports my involvement as a Citizen Airmen. Many of Delta’s leaders are veterans as well. Delta is also a partner in ESGR (Employer Support of Guard and Reserve) and has even won the Secretary of Defense “Freedom Award” for their outstanding support of guard and reserve employees.”

He now flies weekly on both domestic and international flights for Delta Air Lines. He flies to places like Singapore, Korea, Guatemala, Alaska, and Europe. O'Reilly explained, “As a C-130 Instructor Pilot, I also fly local training missions around the Midwest, with Duluth being a very prominent destination.”

When he is not flying planes for Delta, he helps recruit leaders of tomorrow’s Air Force. He served on active-duty for nine years before he went into the Air Force Reserve Command. O’Reilly said,  “When I started UPT, I had no clue that a person could go directly from college to the guard or reserve. After I attended UMD, the Air Force paid for 75% of my Master’s Degree costs with a program called Tuition Assistance (TA).” The military also offers the Post 9/11 GI Bill that can be used by veterans, their spouse, or children. “I continue to serve after 26 years, because I feel a real sense of true belonging and enjoy what I do.”

High on Tim’s priority list is his family. He is married with two boys ages nine and eleven. While he has enjoyed the fun and challenges that have come with his profession, his true reward at the end of the day is his family. O'Reilly said, “I try being the best dad and husband I can be while showing my boys the way of life.” His favorite quote sums up his passion and focus on his family: “Don’t spend so much time trying to make a living that you forget to make a life.”