Flying high with 4-H

Jeff Hullinger smiling for a picture in his Nationwide Children’s uniform, where he works as an EMS helicopter pilot.

When Jeff Hullinger was piloting Marine helicopters in Afghanistan, his 4-H experiences as a youth were far from his mind, but 4-H was where he discovered his passion for aviation. As a 10-year member of Williams County Ohio 4-H, Hullinger took a variety of projects, ranging from livestock and woodworking to cooking and sewing. But some of the most influential projects were those that allowed him to work with model rockets, remote-control airplanes, and helicopters. 

“At the age of 10 I knew I wanted to become a pilot. I wasn’t sure how I would achieve that dream; I just knew I wanted to fly. Ohio 4-H helped stoke my interest in flying and learning about it. It gave me a supportive organization and network to build toward fulfilling my dream,” said Hullinger. 

After 4-H, Hullinger enlisted in the Marine Corps: “As a Marine, I was selected for the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program. I attended The Ohio State University and received a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management.” After graduation, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and became a helicopter pilot flying CH-53E Super Stallions: “Deployments took me to Djibouti Africa, Fallujah Iraq, Central and South America, and the Helmand River Province of Afghanistan. My last duty assignment was as a presidential helicopter pilot.” 

Hullinger now works as an EMS helicopter pilot flying an EC145 (Monarch 1) for Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He also volunteers for Angel Flight East and Lifeline Pilots, using his personal airplane to fly patients to medical treatments and appointments. 

Not only did 4-H give Hullinger the resources to reach his goals, but it also provided life skills and knowledge he still uses today: “Ohio 4-H taught me to use my 

head to learn new skills and work through challenges. To use my heart to be compassionate and empathetic to others. To use my hands to work toward something greater for myself and my community. And to use my health to live a clean, healthy life and be a better me.” 

“I learned a great work ethic,” said Hullinger. “I had opportunities to exercise communication and public speaking. I was able to learn new skills and information that were not available in a school environment. There were many intangible experiences and lessons learned, and 4-H had a positive impact in making me who I am today.” 

With the impact 4-H had on him, Hullinger shared this advice for today’s 4-H members: “If you have a dream of doing something you love, don’t let anything stand in your way. If you have a dream, go for it.”