Thank you to the Montrose Daily Press and Paul Hurschmann for the below article which was originally printed on 9/19/17!

Many who came out to the 2017 Montrose County Tribute to Aviation at the regional airport may have met cousins Josh and Ian Rasmussen.

The two were hanging out with their similar fighter jets at the south end of the flight line. Both grew up in Ouray and learned to fly right here in Montrose.

Josh and Ian have nearly identical careers and backgrounds. Both are now majors in the Air National Guard — Ian in Oregon (Portland) and Josh here in Colorado (Buckley). Both fly fighter jets, (Josh, a USAF F-16, and Ian, a USAF F-15), and commercial airliners; both are 37; and both are married with children.

“Our paternal grandfather, (Keith Rasmussen), was in the Navy in World War II and he worked on boats. He wasn’t a pilot, but when he got home he used his G.I. Bill to learn how to fly,” Josh recalled. “He (then) had four sons and he taught them to fly.”

Their fathers, Galen (the youngest) and Rod, along with their uncles Rick (the oldest) and Greg, opened a flying business in Kansas (Four Sons Flight Service), and eventually all moved out here, he said. (That type of business is known as an FBO – Fixed Base Operator — an organization granted the right by an airport to operate at the airport and provide aeronautical services such as fueling, hangaring, tie-down and parking, aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance, flight instruction, and similar services.)

“For our entire lives, flying was a part of it,” he said. “So much so that my dad (Rod), and Galen taught both of us to fly. Our entire lives … we were surrounded … they owned airplanes, they taught us to fly. And it was always here in Montrose. We would go other places, but it was always based here in Montrose.”

Josh said he always knew he wanted to fly.

He said he and Ian grew up playing with airplanes and they both liked fighters. He recalled one day flying with his dad between Montrose and Delta when Rod decided to show him what a spin looked and felt like.

“It’s a maneuver where the airplane does just what it sounds like,” he said. “I won’t say it’s violent, but it’s a lot different than straight, level flying. So, he did that and I immediately knew I needed to become extremely focused on that.”

Ian had a similar explanation of his path to aviation.

“My dad, (Galen), was just out of high school when the family started the FBO,” he said. “He soloed when he was 14 years old. Our dads were just super into aviation. Growing up, they (always) talked about flying. They both were really interested in flying in the military. My dad has defective color vision, so he couldn’t do it. But he flew with (a friend), Gary Sumner, who was an A-7 pilot in the Navy in the ’70s. Gary started talking to me about it and (Josh) and I got really fired up about (the military) in high school.”

He said they started doing research and figuring out the path to get there.

“In high school, I realized it was going to take decent grades and some community involvement to be considered for something like that,” Josh said. “(Considering) the odds, the Air Force Academy became my primary focus. I chased that down. I got a nomination to the academy and did well enough to get a pilot slot out of there, went to pilot training and the rest is history.”

Ian’s path was similar, but not quite identical.

“I soloed at the Montrose airport in 1996. I was a freshman in high school. I flew all through college, got all my civilian ratings in college,” Ian said. “I was on a Navy scholarship and went straight into the Navy and got selected for pilot training, then jet training. Basically, it was our dads. They got us interested in it. They took us to air shows. I watched the Blue Angels in Grand Junction and that was super influential. Gary Sumner was a huge influence. He had awesome stories about the cool adventures he had been on.”

Ian, who also pilots commercial flights for Alaska Air, was active duty U.S. Navy from 2003 until Feb. 28, 2015. The next day, he joined the Oregon Air National Guard, where he remains on active status. He has been deployed three times for the guard and said he has another coming up in the spring.

“I got tired of going on the boat all the time,” he said of the switch.

Josh also served for 12 years active duty in the Air Force before switching to the Air National Guard in 2015.

Rod and his wife, Karen, and Galen and Bonnie Rasmussen are certainly proud of their sons’ accomplishments. They spent time waiting for Josh to fly in Friday afternoon to sing their praises.

“Josh has a beautiful wife, Jennifer, and three great kids,” bragged Rod. “Luke, 7 1/2, was born in Italy while Josh was stationed there; Arabella, 4, and Sienna, 5 1/2 months.”

Ian and his wife, Rachel, have two children, Tyler, 6, and Ruby, 3.

“It’s not easy to make the switch from the Navy to the Air Force, especially the next day,” said Galen, of Ian’s unusual job change. “He was fortunate to meet a squadron commander, (from the Oregon Air National Guard), and he got several opportunities where they flew together. You know, they would have some joint missions and one day they had a dogfight. Ian took him down and I guess that impressed him.”

Ian’s recollection of the matter was somewhat less dramatic, but he confirmed getting to know the squadron commander made the switchover a lot easier.

The cousins were happy to come home and spend the weekend together, and with their families. They each said the Montrose County Tribute to Aviation was a lot of fun, noting they enjoyed meeting and talking to all of the visitors who took time to stop and check out their fighter jets.

They said they get to see one another a few times each year, but both agreed the venue couldn’t be better since it was where they both began.

Paul Hurschmann is the photojournalist for the Montrose Daily Press. He has more than 20 years of experience in the business, including six with The Associated Press.