Just over two years ago the Luke Air Force Base community was rocked by the news of an event that happened in Afghanistan. An Afghan colonel opened fire in a meeting held at the North Kabul International Airport killing eight Airmen and one civilian. Among the Airmen was Lt. Col. Frank “Bruiser” Bryant Jr., an F-16 pilot from Luke who was serving as an air advisor during his deployment.
One year and 364 days later, members of the 310th Fighter Squadron gathered in front of the Bryant Fitness Center to remember a wingman, friend and mentor.
“Bruiser was an amazing man,” said Lt. Col. Jon Wheeler, 310th FS commander. “He was a practical joker; he loved sneaking up on people. He was a wrestler, so if he got the drop on you, beware. It was all over.”
Bryant was born and raised in Knoxville, Tenn. He graduated from high school in 1991 as the Tennessee High School State wrestling champion in his weight class. He continued wrestling throughout college at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where, in 1995, he served as the team captain and was named most valuable player. Last year he was posthumously inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. After graduating from the academy in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in general engineering, he attended undergraduate pilot training and became a T-37 instructor pilot. Bryant went on to become a decorated F-16 pilot with 3,047 total flying hours, 121 of which were in combat. During his career, Bryant served at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.; Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea; Shaw AFB, S.C.; and at Luke.
Bryant was an advisor with the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan helping to train the newly formed Afghan air force.
To remember Bryant and his sacrifice, members of the 310th FS and others gathered in front of the Bryant Fitness Center to toast his memory.
“He was an instructor pilot as I was coming through training,” said Maj. James Day, 310th FS. “I remember he had a genuine humility and excitement about the job. He was incredibly talented and a very credible instructor.”
In May 2012 the fitness center on base was renamed in his honor.
“I think it’s important as a community we remember fallen heroes,” Day said. “The gym was named after him, and people should know why and understand the hero he was.”