BREMEN — An amazing seven-year journey culminated in a big payoff last month for Josh Gramm. At the end of a path which zig-zagged across the country, the 2003 Bremen High School graduate was presented his Air Force pilot’s wings in a ceremony at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas.
Gramm, an admitted “overachiever,” didn’t get where he is today by accident. As a motivated student at BHS, he finished No. 2 in his class academically while competing in three sports and being active in multiple clubs.
“I credit so much of what I’ve been able to do with the foundation that was started here in Bremen,” Gramm said during his recent visit. “I was probably a little too aggressive and gung-ho for some of my teachers and gave them more headaches than they wished, but I definitely owe them all thanks for helping in my development.”
Once deciding he wanted to attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Gramm went through a rigorous process during his final two years at BHS. After numerous essays and fitness and medical tests, he went through an interview with Indiana Congressman Steve Buyer and a six-person board of former military personnel. Through it all, Gramm had an unshakable support structure.
“I was lucky to have parents that pushed me through the process, in a good way,” Gramm said. “And I was raised to cherish a lot of the same principles that the military honors, like integrity, service and sacrifice.”
One morning, Gramm received a call from Buyer, telling him he was selected to attend the Academy. Though excited, it didn’t take long for a new reality to set in. Gramm’s post-graduation summer vacation was to not be, as he left shortly after receiving his diploma for 12 weeks of basic training.
“One of the biggest sacrifices was not having that summer,” Gramm said. “Every previous summer I was going to sports camps, team practices and doing as much as I could. Then I was going to have a summer where I’d probably get a job and just hang out with my friends. All that changed in going to the Academy.”
A big adjustment
Even a dedicated student-athlete like Gramm faces a major shock when arriving at a United States military academy.
“It’s a rough transition for everybody,” Gramm said. “It’s a completely different world that you can’t understand or comprehend, and I did my research and knew what was coming. It was a lot different reading it on paper compared to experiencing it.”
The new regimen featured getting up at 4 a.m., constant banging on doors for drills, intense training and being told when and where to do virtually everything.
“Every single part of your life is controlled,” Gramm said. “It’s a shock and takes some getting used to.”
By the time summer was over, Gramm welcomed the academic year. With 32 different areas of concentration, the Academy has a unique setup.
“You major in the core, and minor in your major,” Gramm said. “You have 100 hours of core classes and 50 hours in your major, pretty much the opposite compared to most universities.”
Gramm took advantage of every opportunity presented. After his freshman year, he endured Combat Survival Training, two weeks of living in the mountains as a downed pilot in both friendly and hostile territories. Following his sophomore year, he spent time at Beale Air Force Base in California, where he saw how a base runs while getting his first real taste of air time. For a semester during his junior year, he attended classes at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland as part of an exchange program. That also included trips to Norfolk Navy Base and Marine Base Quantico in Virginia.
During his junior year, Gramm was named wing commander.
“I think in high school the closest thing to it would be student body president,” Gramm said. “It was a great experience and worthwhile to give back after I’d given so much for three years.”
The summer before his senior year, Gramm was part of a research program at the Pentagon, working with the Missile Defense Agency. Through it all, he kept the same attitude he always had.
“With anything in life, you get out what you put in,” Gramm said. “If you’re willing to spend the time and work hard, usually there are a lot of rewards that come.”
Now with his wings, Gramm begins a 10-year commitment with the Air Force. For at least the next three years, he will be assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command in New Mexico, where they specialize in covert or “black” operations training. He doesn’t know his mission yet, or what plane he will fly.
Like he has his whole life, Gramm approaches the future with an open mind.
“There are amazing opportunities that you learn about all the time,” Gramm said. “We’ll take it one day at a time and see what happens. Everyone tells me that you can’t go wrong going where the action’s at.”
Despite all of his accomplishments, Gramm maintains a humble attitude, the product of his upbringing and service to his country.
“Anybody could’ve been in my shoes and done what I’ve done,” Gramm said. “There’s nothing unique or special about me. A lot of it was about being lucky and willing to put in the hard work.”