Military aviation is an important part of our state’s aviation community. In this spotlight, we highlight some of our local military aviators, who represent North Dakota around the world, and share their stories with you. We thank them for their dedicated service to our country and community. Our spotlight this issue features Andy “Comma” Niemyer, a retired Captain in the U.S. Navy.
Q: What is your hometown?
I am California-born, but have lived in North Dakota from 1990 to 2002 and from 2021 to present, both in Bismarck and Fargo.
Q: What was your job title? What did your work include?
At the time we moved to North Dakota, I was a Commander in the Navy and was flying as a Bombardier-Navigator in the Grumman A-6 Intruder with a West Coast Navy Reserve squadron. I later served with two Joint USCG-USN units and then was a lecturer and instructor training various Navy Battle Group staff. I finally commanded a small unit based out of the Minneapolis International Airport.
Q: What inspired you to join the military?
I grew up next to the original home of US Naval Aviation, Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, CA. Naval Aviation and the Navy was all around me. With the Vietnam War still going on and a possibility of being drafted after college graduation, I found out about opportunities to enlist in the Navy and then apply for officer training. That seemed like a great idea!
Q: How many years of service did you have?
I served for 31 years and six months, including an initial 18 months as an enlisted sailor and officer candidate at the end of the Vietnam War, from 1972 to 1973.
Q: What was the most rewarding part of your time in the military?
The people, the places, the challenges and the chance to fly in Navy aircraft world-wide.
Q: Are you involved in the North Dakota aviation community outside of the military?
Not too long after moving to Bismarck, I immediately began renting General Aviation (GA) aircraft; I attended my first Upper Midwest Aviation Symposium (UMAS), joined the former North Dakota Pilots Association (NDPA), and became involved in the North Dakota Aviation Council (NDAC). I helped with UMAS, NDPA annual presentations, and then became the Editor-in-Chief of the Quarterly. In the meantime, I flew and owned a couple of planes out of KBIS. I’m now based out of KFAR and still active in GA activities.
Q: What advice do you have for anyone interested in military aviation?
You will never, ever have an opportunity like the one presented to you by applying for and being selected for military flight training. You will be presented unique challenges, unparalleled training, given the chance to fly in some of the world’s most advanced and unique aircraft and make friendships that will last a lifetime. As you do this, you will gain life skills and self-discipline that will serve you a lifetime, no matter what you end up doing with the rest of your life. And, should you succeed, you will join an incredibly small and unique cadre of peers with whom you will share a fantastic set of world-wide adventures and experiences, no matter how long you serve.