When he graduated from Tulsa's Edison High School, he wanted to see the world. Well, he found there's a pretty neat view from an F-18 fighter jet. Major Dirk Cooper is the 2nd highest ranking instructor in the US Navy's famous Top Gun school.
As News on 6 reporter Steve Berg explains, he returned to his roots Friday to talk to a new generation.
There's not much that could rattle a Top Gun fighter pilot, except maybe going back to your old high school. "In fact I was lost and didn't recognize a lot of the hallways." He's the modest type, but 18 years after graduating as an Edison Eagle, Major Dirk Cooper has soared to great heights, with combat deployments in the Persian Gulf, numerous medals and for the past year and a half, he's been the 2nd in command at the prestigious Top Gun school, teaching courses for both the F-18 Hornet and the F-16 Viper.
"We know that we have to put out the right tactics, because that's the tactics that the fighter pilots are going to take into combat. So we know that our job is very important and we take that seriously."
But once he was a high school student at Edison. "I didn't know I was going to get to do this. Was just a treat, I mean, the kids were asking questions that I'd never have guessed kids that age would ask those questions, very intelligent questions."
Everything from the height requirements, to questions about specific models of aircraft and of course the inevitable comparisons to the movie Top Gun. "We just want to stay away from that. The real Top Gun is where we work, it's not glamorous, it's 14 hour days."
It might be surprising that before joining the service, Cooper never flew a plane. "In my naive view as a high schooler, I thought I'd get to see the world no matter what I did and ends up, I got a flight contract and got to fly for the Marine Corps and it all worked out."
Major Cooper says if you mention the Top Gun movie around the real Top Gun school, you get fined $20.
Major Cooper is married to a former Cascia Hall graduate, Mary Hocker, they have 2 kids.