Proud dads Steve Lunde and Bruce Johnson. (Photo/Nancy Hanson.)Nancy Edmonds Hanson
Steve Lunde and Bruce Johnson have a couple things in common. They work side by side at RE/MAX Realty in south Moorhead, of course, but their connection goes deeper: The two proud fathers are literally “helicopter dads.” Both men have sons who fly the famous UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in the U.S. Army.
Major Jonathan Lunde is currently stationed at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs, Colorado. After 13 years and deployments to Afghanistan and Turkey, he is currently the executive officer for 3-4 Assault Helicopter Battalion, the “Comanches.”
First Lieutenant Jayce Johnson serves in Helena, Montana, with the Montana Army National Guard’s 1-189th General Support Aviation Battalion. Today both men are certified to fly the $30 million Black Hawks that make up the U.S. Army’s 2,100-helicopter fleet.
Both Lunde and Johnson were part of the Tri-College Reserve Officers’ Training Program while attending college – Lunde, a graduate of Ulen-Hitterdal High School, at North Dakota State University, and Moorhead Spud Johnson at Concordia College.
“Jonathan grew up playing soldier,” father Steve recalls. “He and I watched tons of World War II movies. He was in awe of his uncle Mike Lockhart, who was a second lieutenant and Green Beret during the Vietnam era. I think Mike planted the seed.
“Joining the Army was entirely Jonathan’s choice,” he adds. “He loves this country.”
Lunde was commissioned into the aviator branch of the Army through ROTC after graduating from NDSU with a degree in social science. He went on to attend the Aviation Basic Officers Leader Course at Fort Rucker, Alabama, graduating in 2012 rated in the UH-60 Black Hawk.
Lunde was assigned to the 3-1 Assault Helicopter Battalion of the combat aviation brigade at Fort Riley, Kansas, serving as a platoon leader, an executive officer and the battalion assistant operations officer before deployment to Army bases in Shindand and Herat, Afghanistan.
The major served as the home station mission commander for the 1-10 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, then was deployed again as detachment commander at Incirlike Air Base, Turkey. Later he commanded A Company of 2-10 AHB. He spent two years as a military science instructor at West Point until, in 2021, he completed the Command and General Staff Officer College in Fort Leavenworth. He is currently the executive officer for the 3-4 Assault Helicopter Battalion “Comanches” in Fort Carson.
Like Lunde, Jayce Johnson says he grew up with the Armed Services in mind. “After visiting Pearl Harbor as a kid, I knew I wanted to join the military,” he reports. I didn’t know what branch or what job, but I knew I wanted to serve.” Inspired by his buddy Wyatt, who’d enlisted in the infantry, he signed up. “Before leaving for boot camp, I got an offer to join ROTC and I took it.”
Johnson, who majored in biology as a Cobber, spent his college years in the SMP – simultaneous membership program. He drilled and served with his guard unit, took part in ROTC, and spent summers at the Minnesota National Guard’s Camp Ripley. He graduated as a top marksman, later winning the recondo award for scoring in the top 10% of his class. He went on to train at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Fort Rucker in Alabama.
“I worked with helicopters to help move my infantry company during my senior year, and I thought it was crazy cool,” Johnson remembers. “That tipped the scale to make me want to become a pilot.” It was the hardest branch of the army to get into, he says. But after graduating from college in 2020, he was accepted into aviation and commissioned into the Montana Army National Guard as an aviator.
He flew UH-72 Lakota helicopters while learning flight basics, then was selected as a Black Hawk pilot. With that designation came more advanced training. The Black Hawk is widely used as a troop carrier, but can be configured to carry out medical evacuation and search-and-rescue – the main mission of the aircraft he currently flies in Montana.
His father, like Lunde’s, beams with pride when he talks about his high-flying son, but admits that Jayce’s love of his career does cause him and his wife Vikki some trepidation. “Jayce’s interest seemed to come out of the blue. We were surprised at first, but now we’re very, very proud of what he has accomplished.
“These men have a different mindset. They have no fear. It’s all about serving their country.”