334th FS shows it has GUTS

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Brittain Crolley
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

A trip to the hospital the day before couldn’t slow him down. He woke before the sun, nudged his parents awake and was ready to get the day started. He knew adventure lie ahead and he was determined to change the narrative of how the past few months had gone for him.

For Dylan Bolles-Prasse, the adventure came in the form of an opportunity to become a pilot for a day at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, March 12, courtesy of the 334th Fighter Squadron.

At only 12 years old, Bolles-Prasse has experienced more hardship and adversity than most people can imagine. He was born with Hirschsprung Disease, a defect in which nerve cells at the end of the bowel are missing. At 3, he suffered an infection that caused him to lose his intestines and a year later, he underwent a full bowel transplant. The procedure still requires him to use a feeding tube, go to the doctor frequently for blood draws, and take anti-rejection medicine to ensure his body continues to accept the new organs.

“Things change with his disease and the transplant,” explained David Prasse, Dylan’s father. “We went along for almost a year and all of a sudden the last three months have been pretty rough again.”

However, a day past the 8-year anniversary of that procedure, Bolles-Prasse found himself in good spirits and ready to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The morning started with a trip to the squadron building for a tour of the facility. One of the stops included a visit to aircrew flight equipment, where Bolles-Prasse was presented his very own flight suit and patch with his call sign “GUTS”. The nickname was given to him by his crewmates for the day, Capts. Chris Leonard, 334th FS weapon systems officer, and Patrick Eden, 334th FS pilot. It holds a double meaning, both recognizing his intestinal illness and honoring the way he has approached his ailment and life in general.

From there, the 334th’s newest pilot was off to the air traffic control tower to watch F-15E Strike Eagles and a KC-135 Stratotanker take off from the runway and get a behind-the-scenes look at how the airspace is managed at the radar approach control facility. He even helped handle a simulated scenario where he had to clear the airspace by communicating with aircrew. Thankfully, disaster was adverted.

A busy morning called for a little recharge time back at the squadron, where Bolles-Prasse was invited to the heritage room for lunch and to unwind with a game of foosball with his new friends.

“I had a great time talking with Dylan,” Leonard said. “He loves doing his fist bumps and his high-fives, so we did a lot of that today. He was real easy to get along with, you could tell that he was having a really good time.”

The adventure continued in the afternoon with an opportunity to get behind the controls of the F-15E simulator. Bolles-Prasse practiced take-offs, shot down enemy aircraft, and dropped several bombs on a variety of targets. Once he was familiarized with the controls, it was time to take on the real thing.

The tour culminated in a chance to sit inside the cockpit of a real Strike Eagle. Bolles-Prasse seemed right at home, quickly grabbing the control stick and throttle grip and mimicking the skills he’d practiced earlier in the simulator. He was all smiles.

“That moment when his face would light up and we would see something, that was the best part of the day because that’s the whole reason we were doing it,” Leonard said.

The day was better than most for Bolles-Prasse, and Leonard and his family both hope that it starts a trend in a better direction.

“He’s gone through a lot that I probably couldn’t,” his dad said. “He’s my hero."