Serving as a fighter pilot in the Mideast in the fall of 2016, Congressman August Pfluger II of San Angelo had an experience that showed just how dangerous his duty was.
He was leading a nighttime formation of three Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors when he lost most of his electrical power and had to fly for two minutes with no navigation or radio, not knowing where the other planes were.
“You have a detailed checklist and you rely on your training, skills and years of practice, the pre-flight briefing and hours and hours of reading manuals and training on simulators,” Pfluger said, explaining that they had their exterior lights off in their approach of an ISIS target in northern Iraq. “There were 20-30 aircraft in the same piece of sky within 100 miles.
“I turned off the different power sources and reduced the electrical load to bring the system back on. It was a hairy situation, but I was able to maintain control of the aircraft and complete the mission. Those couple of minutes seemed like an eternity.”
Then commanding the 380th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron from Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Pfluger said all the pilots were mindful that a downed Jordanian pilot had recently been burned alive in a cage.
“There was a guy with a British accent called Jihadi John who’d been beheading people and putting videos out, so we had a plan to do everything we possibly could to get the aircrafts safely home,” he said in a phone interview from Washington.
An F-22 can reach 1,500 mph, but Pfluger and his wingmen were approaching the target at 400 mph at an elevation of 25,000 feet. The $140-million plane carries a 20-millimeter machine gun, eight missiles and two 1,000-pound bombs.
Pfluger said an analysis was done of what went wrong, but he couldn’t disclose that information.
He said that in addition to deliberate strikes of ISIS targets, the F-22s sometimes supported infantry with attacks of enemy troops.
“From time to time, the Russians would fly through northern Iraq and get in the way of things, so we had to be very cognizant of our environment and who was out there,” he said.
Now a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, the Republican congressman credited “the huge team around me” of aircraft maintenance men and the soldiers, sailors and Marines who also fought in Iraq.
Asked how he has adapted to political life after 20 years’ active duty, Pfluger said his military career has been applicable to his duties as representative of the 11th Congressional District. “I got lots of leadership experience, analyzing the environment and studying what courses of action to take,” he said June 25.
“I just came off the House floor, opposing a Democrat bill to overregulate the energy industry. My team and I are looking at ways we can counter these threats to oil and gas and agriculture and stop attempts to defund police and deny the Border Patrol the resources it needs.
“I have a mission to do everything I can.”
Pfluger said the Biden administration’s emphasis on renewable energy sources like wind and solar power could lead to national “rolling blackouts like California has every single summer.
“I regularly meet with oil and gas and service company representatives because we have to team up to get the truth out,” he said. “The energy industry has brought a billion people out of poverty who now have access to energy and clean water.”
Pfluger is a 42-year-old graduate of the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs who flew more than 2,000 hours in the F-22, F-15 Eagle and T-38 Talon, including over 250 combat hours.
He was an action officer at Air Force Headquarters in the Pentagon, operations director and F-22 evaluator pilot for the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, chief of strategy for the Deployed Air Command and Control Center in Italy and a member of the National Security Council just before announcing his congressional candidacy to succeed the retiring Mike Conaway of Midland. He is a member of the House committees on Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs.
Pfluger won the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters for bravery in combat, the Air Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Joint Service Achievement Medal and the Air Force Achievement Medal with three oak leaf clusters.
He has master’s degrees from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at Daytona Beach, Fla., Air University at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base at Montgomery, Alabama, and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He and his wife Camille have three children.
The city of Pflugervile, 17 miles northeast of Austin, is named for his great-great-grandfather Henry Pfluger Sr. (1803-67) a pioneer farmer and businessman. Playing quarterback, he wore the San Angelo Central High School Bobcats’ blue and orange. He is also an Eagle Scout.