AMA with Sam Eckholm

April, 17, 2021 by
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Hello everyone, my name is Sam Eckholm. I am a social media creator, photographer and 1st Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.

I handle digital media, community relations, civic outreach and media outreach for the Air Force.

I’m currently stationed at Scott Air Force Base, outside of St. Louis, Mo. where I’m assigned to the 375th Air Mobility Wing. I was previously assigned to the F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team where I spent the 2019 and 2020 seasons traveling the world and helping to capture, edit, and showcase the story and mission of the F-22 Raptor.

In my spare time, I enjoy photography and video production, where I create content for both my YouTube Channel, Instagram, and TikTok to share my experiences in the Air Force and inspire the next generation.

Ask me anything in the comments below and I’ll reply with an answer!

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Kole
1 year ago

Hey man, absolutely love your content. It’s inspired me so much more to join the USAF. Is there any way that any airman ( enlisted, and not a pilot) could ride in the backseat of a fighter aircraft? Thank you so much!

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Kole

Yes! There are lots of opportunities. Sometimes if you win an award like Outstanding Airman of the Quarter, they gives rides. Other opportunities exist as well.

Lily
1 year ago

Even though you attended USAFA, did you still have to go through meps?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Lily

We go through a similar process, yes.

Steve
1 year ago

Hi Sam,
With greatest pleasure,
I‘d like to ask you 2 questions:

  • Will there maybe be some classic warbird content in the future? You took some pic‘s of a P51D and the Raptor, they look pretty.
  • Which genre/kind of music do you like the most and do you still play guitar? (Your voice is unbelievable.. In my opinion superb.)

You should definitely keep up doing your thing. I think that many people love you and your content, which is especially great for young people, who are into aviation.

I hope that you have a great day.
Best regards from Austria.

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve

Thanks so much for the kind words, Steve! I would love to do a video with the P-51. Will definitely try and see what I can do to make that happen.

I love playing guitar and singing… just not too much time to do all the things I want in a day haha. My biggest inspirations have always been John Mayer/Ed Sheeran. Big fan of bands like LANY, Lauve, Virginia to Vegas, and The Band Camino

Anonymous
1 year ago

Hi Sam! After the Air Force, what do you plan to do? Would you continue to pursue a career in media outreach… or would you find an entirely different field of job? Do you also plan on serving longer or shorter years in service?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Dream has always been to be a full time YouTuber/content creator so I’m sure I’ll keep chasing that 🙂

Mukundan
1 year ago

Hey Sam! Thank you for doing this. What’s the most interesting thing you have photographed besides the F-22?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Mukundan

I always loved shooting the warbirds. I have some epic P-51 photos!

Anthony
1 year ago

For you and Swayne, what are the difficulties of balancing your life/workload as an USAF officer and his life/workload as a pilot? What have you both done to make the most out of it? TYFYS!

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Anthony

Honestly him being a pilot has made things a lot easier since he and I both have flight benefits and can fly to see each other at least once a week. All depends on his schedule though since I only have weekends off and he may not get the lines he wants to have them off either.

Takes commitment for sure!

Bryan
1 year ago

Hello!
I’ve been trying to find a recruiter that can help me to see how to start my journey. The problem is that I don’t know if the fighter pilots of the Air Force are part of special warfare, from my research I understood that Special Warfare are those with jobs in the front lines but I’m not sure if fighter pilots form part of Special Warfare, I don’t wanna end up doing another job when all I wanted was to be a fighter pilot, haha. 
Thanks I’m advance and keep doing what you doing! I really love your content.

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Bryan

Thanks! There are tons and tons of different aircraft you can fly with different missions, so I’m sure you will find something your psyched about. There are specific special warfare recruiters as well if that’s the path you want to go down.

Check out my YouTube video on how to be a pilot if you have any questions about that process!

Lily
1 year ago

Hi Sam!

I love the videos and content you create, you are very good at what you do!

I am currently a Depper, and my plan is to serve in the AF until I get my bachelors degree, become an officer, and eventually become a pilot.

Do you know anyone who have first enlisted and then later on become an officer? …and was becoming a pilot a part of their plan?

Lily
1 year ago
Reply to  Lily

…and do you have any advice for me?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Lily

There have been TONS of prior enlisted pilots some who had that plan and some who didn’t. Just try and get your degree as soon as you can so that you have that out of the way when it comes time to put your officer package in.

Other than that, work hard and earn the respect and support of your supervisors. That matters a TON because they are the ones that advocate for you to get that UPT slot.

Zachariah Watkins
1 year ago

Hey Sam!
How are you liking St Louis?
Have you tried Imo’s pizza yet??

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago

Loving STL! Imo’s is on the list. Did the Ted Drew’s frozen custard though. EPIC

Mark
1 year ago

Hey Sam,
Love your work, keep it up! For your SM projects, do you have to go thru much red tape to show us the behind the scenes or with your role are you pretty free to post what you feels appropriate? Also has any of your posts/projects gotten you into hot water

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark

Haha long story short… yes I’ve gotten into some hot water. But it’s not because of anything serious like security concerns, more of just people who don’t know the rules and regs or maybe they don’t understand how powerful a tool SM can be. But I will say I’ve got a lot of support too! And I won’t be stopping anytime soon.

Anonymous
1 year ago

Hey Sam! I really enjoy seeing you and Swayne be happy in your own space. How do you deal with all the noise about LGBT relationships and hate?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by a lot of positivity. From friends to work colleagues. There is still some hate out there especially since I put myself out there publicly, but I just try not to let it get to me.

Anonymous
1 year ago

favorite clothing brands – pants, shirts, underwear, shoes

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Haha I use to actually be really into brand clothing, labels, and all that jazz… realized I could spend my money elsewhere so now I mostly shop on ASOS. But my faves now have to be Zara, H&M, and Express.

Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Eckholm

Such good style Sam! But always thought you were a Calvin Klein boxer brief guy. You like Express and H&M?

Suhas
1 year ago

Hey, Sam! Thanks for your time. What was your favorite moment from being in the Air Force? Did you plan on an Air Force career when you were younger?

I look forward to hearing your response. 🙂

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Suhas

I did plan on being in the Air Force since my dad inspired me as a kid. However, I always thought I’d be a pilot. Didn’t know a career field existed where I could do what I’m doing now, so pretty cool to still be around aircraft while also doing what I love in terms of photo/video.

Favorite moment.. dang there’s been so many! Flying in a T-38, traveling the world with the F-22 Demo Team, Blue Angles photo flight, interacting with thousand of kids and sharing my passion with them!

Chris T
1 year ago

Hey Sam, I was wondering what the nomination process for USAFA was like. Also do you think being in organizations like key club is about as helpful as being an Eagle Scout?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris T

Eagle Scout helps a ton! Nomination process works similar to a typical college application. You will need to do essays, rec letters, and usually some sort of interview. Start the process early and remember that a nomination is just as important as the USAFA app itself.

Norbert r.
1 year ago

I want to go to to the USAF academy, but i am not from the US. How do i get in it?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Norbert r.

For internationals, you can apply through your government to be sponsored. Usually you would need to be a member of your country’s Air Force to do an exchange program.

Norbert r.
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Eckholm

Thanks

Joshua Cochran
1 year ago

Any chance your coming to LA soon to make some content!! Come to Manhattan beach!

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Joshua Cochran

I do have some plans to be in LA soon! Hopefully more in the future.

Nicholas T
1 year ago

Hey Sam! Not sure if you remember, but we met at the Singapore Airshow last year. My question is; how was Singapore? 🙂 Hope you’re doing well!

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Nicholas T

Yes!! Hey! I absolutely loved it. Need to go back soon.

Nicholas T
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Eckholm

Look forward to see you back 😉

Arya
1 year ago

Hey Sam!
I was wondering if being and Eagle Scout helps in getting into the USAFA. I’m an Eagle Scout and interested going to the academy, and eventually being a pilot.

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Arya

Yep! There is a box for that to check on the application. Will for sure help.

alex sriubas
1 year ago

Hey Sam! I love watching your videos! Especially the one where you flew in a fighter jet. So my question is, how do you become a pilot in the Air Force? I’ve been considering enlisting for some time. Thanks!

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  alex sriubas

Hey Alex! I could write it all out, but I have an even easier way for you to find out 🙂

I made a whole video on how to be a pilot on my YouTube channel! Should answer all of your questions.

Tyler Shelton
1 year ago

Thanks for joining us! 6 year Air Force veteran here out of Moody AFB, GA as an Air Traffic Controller.

What do you think the most underrated base is, CONUS or OCONUS? Other than public affairs, if you could pick ANY enlisted or officer job in the USAF today what would it be? I appreciate your time, Sam!

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Tyler Shelton

Honestly… Scott AFB is pretty underrated. That’s where I’m at now and the location is great! Right near St. Louis and there’s a bunch of aircraft constantly flying in.

Hmmm any other job… I would say probably a boom operator on a KC-135. They go all over the world and get the best views.

Anonymous
1 year ago

Hey Sam!

I have been considering the USAF Academy for a while now. What is it like going to school there? How different is it then a normal university?

Thanks for doing this!

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

It’s a great experience! It’s challenging, and the academics and course load is rigorous, but the opportunities available there are incredible. You’re time will be filled constantly and you have a lot of military commitments unlike a typical school, but hey a guaranteed job after graduation is pretty sweet.

Georg
1 year ago

Greetings Sam, I would like to ask about your knowledge regarding becoming a pilot in the United States Air Force. It has been a lifelong dream for me to do so, but I have encountered several significant blockages. Firstly, I have been diagnosed with the type-1-diabetes approximately 12 years ago. Secondly, I am of foreign nationality. And Thirdly, I have also short-sightedness. Although it is my ultimate desire to become a pilot with USAF specifically, it seems there may not be any opportunity, even to become an Enlisted. Any advice for a boy chasing his dream? Or is it a time to finally accept his reality? Thank you Sam

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Georg

My favorite thing to say is that, “If there’s a will… there’s a waiver.” I’m not a medical expert, but if you want it bad enough, usually there is a way to do it. Try and work with your recruiter to submit a waiver request and hopefully the Air Force will give you a shot.

Anonymous
1 year ago

Hello, Sam!

Question regarding your time with the demo team:

Did you have do go through any flight qualifications before you got selected for that job? Demo team is my dream assignment and I want to do as much as I can to “build my resume” before I speak to our assignments manager. (Fellow 35P, here.) I’ve got the photo experience, Adobe products knowledge, writing skills and com rel enthusiasm to be,“the whole package,” such as yourself, for such a niche assignment.

cheers!

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Surprisingly no, I didn’t. Currently to get on a demo team as a 35P, you need to be stationed at the base where the team is at. You can also apply for the Thunderbirds team Air Force wide so definitely look into that route.

I’d say keep honing your skills and have the support from your leadership!

Will Guthro
1 year ago

Hey Sam! I’ve always enjoyed your fantastic work. As someone like myself, who’s tossed up between joining the AF or taking another route into aviation, what’s your best argument to join the AF as opposed to going to school or some other program?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Will Guthro

I always say, why not do both. Go the Air Force route, have them pay for all of your training. Get some invaluable experience and then you can always peace out after your commitment is up and take your skills to the commercial side.

You can also join the Guard/Reserves and serve in the Air Force part time while pursuing a commercial aviation job. Best of both worlds.

Will Guthro
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Eckholm

Thanks so much! ROTC has always been a prospect, and I’ll certainly think about both routes. Again, thanks for your time and words of wisdom!

Anonymous
1 year ago

How has your experience been, being a gay man in the Air Force?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

I appreciate that question, and it really has been nothing but positive. The culture in the military has changed since the old days and everyone I’ve encountered has been very respectful.

Jarrett S
1 year ago

Hey Sam!

First off, I just want to say thank you for doing this. I’ve been watching and following you for a while and it’s a honor to be able to ask you a question!

1: What sort of background in education do you have that prepared you for a job in photography and social media?

2: Do you have any plans of what you would like to do next after the Air Force?

3: Is your role in the Air Force considered non-combat? Or can you be called to action if necessary?

Thank you so much, Sam! I look forward to hearing your answers!

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Jarrett S

Hey Jarrett!

Thanks so much for you support 🙂

  1. Nothing too fancy here. I’m entirely self-taught. I got my first camera as a Christmas gift from my mom when I was a sophomore in college and then nonstop watched a bunch of YouTube tutorials to learn the ropes. Lots of great FREE info available out there.
  2. Still working on it! I have a bunch of projects I’m hoping to work on, and so after the Air Force, the dream is to continue working on those, creating content, and hopefully sharing it with you guys and inspiring some people along the way.
  3. Yah so there’s actually a component of my career field called combat camera. These guys deploy down range with operators and special forces to document what is going on. Pretty crazy! There are also standard deployments you can do too, but for the most part, you aren’t seeing too much combat.

Thanks for the questions! Hope that helped!

Erin
1 year ago

Hi Sam!

Thanks for joining us. I have two questions for you:

  • What has been your biggest inspiration?
  • What advice would you give to someone looking to get into your field of work?

Thank you!

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Erin

Hey Erin!

My biggest inspiration is less of a single individual or person, and more of all of the people that enjoy seeing the content I produce and might be inspired to either serve in the military or just pursue a career field that they enjoy in life. That’s the coolest thing and reading the positive comments and DMs from people out there who have actually been positively impacted by my stuff is definitely my biggest inspiration.

if you want to get into my field of work, particularly in the Air Force, first off, reach out to your local recruiter. Build a relationship with them, and see what openings they have available and when. Other than that, do your research into the Air Force. It’s not for everyone and you need to make sure that everything that comes with it is something you’re down for. Oh yah… and pick up and camera and start practicing!!

CrisYe
1 year ago

Hey Sam!

What is the most difficult part of your work in your opinion?

Thanks!

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  CrisYe

Great question! It sometimes feels like the Air Force (and military in general) is a little behind when it comes to utilizing social media and optimizing it to get the biggest results. I have a lot of crazy ideas and I sometimes have to do quite a bit of explaining until I’m given the green light. It can be a bit frustrating, but I understand that social media is still a relatively new thing. Hopefully the people in the high up positions start to understand more and more how powerful social media is for both recruiting and telling our military’s story! Because I seriously think the sky will be the limit with what is able to be produced.

CrisYe
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Eckholm

Thanks for your answer Sam!

Karen
1 year ago

Hi Sam,
What positive influences does social media have on the mission of the Air Force?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Karen

Recruiting is the biggest for sure. Social media gives you the opportunity to reach such a large and diverse audience which is exactly the target of our Air Force’s recruiting mission. Other than that, SM really just gives the military an ability to share what it is that they are doing with the taxpayers… the public. Whether that’s an exercise overseas with aircraft flying, or a personal Airman’s story, social media creates a platform for those stories to be told.

Shaan Patel (rotateaviationyt)
1 year ago

Hey Sam!

Do you currently have your private pilot’s license or any other FAA certification at the moment?

When did you start doing photography for the air force?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago

While I spent A TON of time in aircraft and around aircraft (I love airplanes), I’m not a pilot myself. No plans to get my PPL anytime soon. Just loving what I’m doing too much.

Started photography for the Air Force in the summer of 2018.

Anonymous
1 year ago

do you have a favorite photograph?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Definitely the F-22/Blue Angels shot I got from the back of a CASA-212 over the coast of South Carolina.

Mervin Sui
1 year ago

Heyy Sam, so good to have a chance to ask question to you.

Question: How did you end up as a Social media content creator after being the 1st Lieutenant of the United States Air Force?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Mervin Sui

It actually just started with my career field. It’s called Public Affairs. Essentially we are the content creators for the Air Force. Pretty cool job not many people know about.

Mervin Sui
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Eckholm

Sounds like a pretty cool job. Thank You.

Anonymous
1 year ago

Can you describe the moment that it became real to you that you could combine your 2 passions/interests into a full time job.

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

My first air show was at Davis-Monthan AFB in AZ and I had the chance to go up in a C-130 for a Combat Search and Rescue Demo. We did what felt like a vertical takeoff and I soon found myself strapped in with the ramp down, feet dangling out the back as A-10s flew behind. It was pretty epic and it hit me that like… wow… this is my job.

Anonymous
1 year ago

Hi Sam! It’s a great pleasure to have you have!

I have a few questions for you.

  1. What made you go to the Air Force?
  2. Have you played Infinite Flight before?

Thanks in advance!

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

My dad actually served in the Air Force. He was a tanker pilot and actually still flies for AA now. He inspired me to join.

Haven’t played it before! I’m more of an Ace Combat guy myself 🙂

Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Eckholm

Awesome! Thank you so much!

Founder
1 year ago

Welcome Sam and thank you for coming to do this AMA with us! Two questions:

  1. How did you first get involved with being part of the social media outreach for the Air Force?
  2. What was the one memory from your time working in the Air Force that you will never forget?
Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  Kyle Boas

Hey Kyle! Thanks for having me.

I first got involved with doing social media for the Air Force after I was selected to travel with the F-22 Demo Team in the spring of 2019.

One memory I’ll never forget is traveling to Singapore with the team. First time ever the F-22 performed in the country and the fans, let’s just say, LOVED IT.

Founder
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Eckholm

So cool, thank you!

StefH
1 year ago

What do love the most about your job?

Sam Eckholm
1 year ago
Reply to  StefH

Having a platform to interact with such a large audience. I love connecting with different people and hopefully inspiring them along the way.