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Up in the Air

Friday, June 29, 2018
Casey Doran flying in his helicopter.

Motivated by terrorist attack, alumnus finds flight career with the Marine Corps

Casey Doran '02, B.S. Business Administration

by Mary Denny

Casey Doran was just beginning his senior year at Trinity when the unthinkable happened—the horrific 9/11 attacks. Unsettled on a career path, although he had once briefly considered the military while in high school, he “now found a reason to join [the military] and felt the conviction to do so.” Perhaps due to his family’s tradition of military service (his dad served in Vietnam and his grandfathers fought in World War II), he says, “I felt I would always have regrets if I didn’t join.” Army recruiters were eager to sign him up, but Casey decided to wait and graduate first.

After coming to grips with the realization that, despite his concentration in finance and marketing, “[he] didn’t have a future on Wall Street,” Casey started exploring his military options. He eventually decided to “become a Marine officer, serve a short time, and get out.” The only Marine option at the time was for an aviation contract—a much longer tour of duty—and he did not want to be a pilot. Casey held out for a while, working on the Texas ranch owned by Steve Dutton ’82 and getting an insurance license before giving in and accepting the roughly eight-year aviation contract. He entered Officer Candidate School in fall of 2003.

Fast-forward 15 years. Casey is still in the Marine Corps and still flying. Not just any plane, but Marine One, the helicopter that flies the President anywhere he needs a helicopter flight around the world. He also flies the vice president and visiting heads of state around the Washington, D.C., region and admits, “Flying a helicopter around Washington, D.C., at 200 feet is pretty cool.”

The job has taken Casey from Hanoi to Havana, Berlin to Buenos Aires, and countless points in between, sometimes on a moment’s notice. On domestic trips he has been able to visit Trinity friends across the country and lists Dillingham, Alaska, as his favorite trip. During the Obama administration, Casey spent two Christmases in Hawaii, and his wife was able to fly out commercially so they could spend Christmas together. As it turned out, he says, “I was actually working on Christmas day, but she did get to meet the Obamas.”

Becoming a Marine One pilot is no easy feat. It requires at least one four-to-six-year fleet tour, mastering advanced piloting qualifications, and meeting security clearance requirements before a screening by an internal selection board. Casey’s first fleet tour included two deployments to Iraq as a CH-46/e pilot. Next, he was sent to the Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico, Va., for another year of training before he applied and was accepted in Marine One.

Casey Doran posing in front of the Marine One helicopter and the helicopter he flew in Iraq.

All Marine One pilots have additional jobs within the squadron, officially known as Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1). Casey’s was as a White House liaison officer responsible for coordinating in advance with the White House staff, Secret Service, and other agencies and services to support presidential travel.

After serving five years with Marine One, Casey was selected for the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He graduated this June and was chosen to return to Marine One for a second tour. “It’s not typical to serve a second tour,” he explains, “but in my case, it is tied to the implementation of a new helicopter and my original helicopter being retired from military service.”  (Marine One helicopters are not flown elsewhere in the Marine Corps.)

Although a future career in finance and marketing still does not appear likely, Casey retains some of the concepts he learned in professors Kim Robertson and the late Darryl Waldron’s classes. Looking back, he now better appreciates the value of professor David Lesch’s “Modern Middle East” class, but adds, “Most important, it is the critical thinking, problem-solving skills, teamwork, and cultural appreciation that Trinity instills that have remained with me in my military career.”

When he’s not flying, Casey’s life revolves around his wife, Kimberly, and their two young children. Although he’s “not built to be a runner,” he has run numerous marathons, including the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. with Team Fisher House, which raises funds to build “comfort homes” where military and veterans’ families can stay free of charge while a loved one is in the hospital. He also has “dabbled in ultra marathons.”

When he does finally retire, Casey anticipates a return to Texas where his wife’s family owns and operates a farming operation, and “our future will most likely entail some involvement.” He also hopes to become re-engaged with the nonprofit Stillwater Christian Ministries and its summer camp program, founded by Matt Moehrig ’99. Whatever his future holds, Casey, a devout Christian, will continue drawing support from one of his favorite Bible verses, Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me.”

Casey may be contacted at cdoran35 [at] hotmail.com.