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Where are they now? Meet Beau Howes

Beau Howes graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the winter of 2016. Earning his degree in Geology and Geophysics with a German Certificate, and his time on campus set him up well for his current career as an Officer in the Marine Corps and a flight student in Pensacola, FL.

Describe one of your fondest memories of your time at UW. 

Running workouts with my friends up Bascom Hill. The view down State Street from Bascom Hill is something I still think of often!

Why did you choose to attend UW?

The atmosphere. UW has an atmosphere and culture unlike any I have ever seen before.

What would you tell others considering UW?

Go! UW will change your life. Badger football games, State Street, days spent on Lake Mendota: These are memories that you’ll hold dearly for the rest of your life.

How have you benefited from your UW education?

Before I explain how I went from a geology degree to flying Marine Corps aircraft, I want to make sure that everyone understands a few things about the military:

  1. In order to be a commissioned officer in the US military, you must first have a bachelor’s degree.
  2. Only officers can be pilots.

I became a geology major after taking a required natural science course (Geology 110). It was such a fascinating field to me and I was hooked after my first class. Not to mention that geology provides students and professors with the opportunity to travel all over the world to get hands on experience with the natural phenomena that they study. While I loved my time with the UW Geoscience Department, I still felt drawn to some form of service and a way to push myself beyond my limits. So that is why I began looking into joining the Marine Corps.

I commissioned through a program called Platoon Leaders Course (PLC), which means that I attended two six-week courses of Officer Candidates School (OCS) over the summers between my college years. Officer Candidates School is the boot camp training that all officers go through in Quantico, VA. Think Full Metal Jacket, but with a particular emphasis on leadership and if the staff there deems you unfit to lead Marines, you will be sent home with a handshake and a, “Thanks for trying.”

Prior to commissioning as an officer, I had the opportunity to apply for the aviation program within the Marine Corps. Through rigorous academic testing (both before and after commissioning), thorough medical screening, and more assessments of physical fitness I was able to qualify to enter Navy flight school as a Marine Corps Officer. Because the Marine Corps is under the Department of the Navy, all Marine pilots go through Navy flight school.

My time as a Wisconsin geology student was crucial to my success as a Marine Corps flight student. The geology degree required that I take a year of calculus, a year of physics, and a year of chemistry on top of my normal coursework. Having a scientific background has been an enormous help in studying aerodynamics, weather, physiology, and the myriad other subjects related to flight training. Flying airplanes for a living is a lot of fun, but also a LOT of hard work. UW gave me the academic rigor to handle this lifestyle while still having fun the whole time. “Work hard, play hard” is a lesson that UW teaches very well.

While many of my former classmates from Wisconsin went on to jobs in the oil and gas industry, mining exploration, environmental consulting, and graduate school, I would not trade my journey to where I am right now for anything. I got to travel North America for my schoolwork, study under the best geologists in the country, and do it all with some of my greatest friends. Now, I have the opportunity to serve my country as a US Marine with the best Americans I have ever met; all while getting to fly airplanes along the way.

 How did your scholarship help? What was the money used for?

The WAA HOI scholarship that I received helped enormously. The money went directly to tuition.

 What high school did you attend?

Bureau Valley High School in Manlius, IL