Dustin Foote in the Aviation Maintenance Hangar on Embry-Riddle's Prescott Campus. (Photo: Embry Riddle / Connor Mcshane) Dustin Foote in the Aviation Maintenance Hangar on Embry-Riddle's Prescott Campus. (Photo: Embry Riddle / Connor Mcshane)
Dustin Foote in the Aviation Maintenance Hangar on Embry‑Riddle's Prescott Campus. (Photo: Embry Riddle / Connor Mcshane)

Veteran Eagle Soars with an Embry‑Riddle Education

Story by Makenna Pringle
Makenna Pringle

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Dustin Foote hopes his story will inspire others to pursue an education despite their struggles and setbacks.

When Dustin Foote (’24) graduated from high school, he was not sure about college. With a family history of serving in the military, he felt following a similar path was his best option, despite doing well in high school and receiving in-state scholarships.

Foote enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served for eight years. As his enlistment neared its end in 2022, he began to consider what his next steps would be. Having watched his wife graduate with a degree in microbiology, college was now on his mind more than ever before.

Early Days at Embry-Riddle

When Foote enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide to pursue an A.S. in Aviation Maintenance, he was still active duty in a high-intensity combat unit, could potentially be called away at any point for month-long deployment exercises and regularly worked 14–16-hour days.

Foote’s first few semesters as a student did not go as planned.

After being promoted to Director of Operations, Foote found himself with greater bandwidth to focus on his academic coursework as well as his mission.

“The Army took care of me and... I got an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) certification, the Airframe and Powerplant, and that was a huge step towards my degree,” he remembered.

As his class performance continued to improve, Foote contacted the Department of Defense’s Skillbridge program to search for a position at The Boeing Company. In early 2022, he found the right person to talk to and was able to begin an internship in Boeing’s Department of Repair and Overhaul.

Interning at The Boeing Company

Being the first intern through this specific Boeing program, Foote realized that he could spearhead the creation of a comprehensive onboarding and training process due to the management skills he gained while in the military.

“I built that whole department’s training program... Passed that all up through Boeing Education, it got approved, so it’s all official now,” he said. “Now they have a tangible on-the-job training program.”

In November 2022, Foote’s military enlistment reached its end. This not only allowed more time to complete coursework for his degree, but also opened a door for another opportunity: a long-term career at Boeing.

After his internship, Foote found himself paving his own way again, this time requesting work in a different area since his initial work had been completed and eventually slowed. After gaining experience in various departments (including Phantom Works, which deals with secretive advanced weapons systems), he landed in the Avionics Integration Labs, working on Apache helicopters.

Working at The Boeing Company

Foote quickly climbed the ranks from there. Now, he works as an electrical and electronics technician on wire harnesses for Apache components for half the day and as a lab operator for the other half.

Recently, Foote received more exciting news; he is being promoted to Shop Lead after less than a year at Boeing. Why? His ability to take initiative and his previous leadership experience shining through.

“Luckily, my team members are super receptive to it. I started organizing things and asking the right questions,” Foote shared of his experience, “There was a lot of breakdown in tracking our progress because we would work all weekend, then come in on Monday, be asked what we did and try to remember everything. I just started tracking it and sending an email each day; this is what we accomplished; these are the challenges we ran into.”

Motivated to Succeed

In January 2023, Foote completed his A.S. in Aviation Maintenance. His plans for further education include an associate in Engineering Fundamentals, two bachelor’s degrees (Aviation Maintenance and Engineering) and an eventual master’s in Aerospace Engineering, all from Embry-Riddle. He is currently enrolled in courses for his bachelor’s programs.

“It’s just amazing to be home and have a solid future and be able to support my family... I could not have done it without my wife and all her support, and my daughter is a huge inspiration,” Foote shared. “[My enlistment ending] was a big push to make a plan and better our lives so I can give her everything I want to give her. A quote that always comes to mind is, ‘Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards.’”

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