Founders Story

The best businesses start by providing a solution for a need and that’s what James “Chef” Barlow saw while he was an A-10 pilot in the US Air Force. He saw a need for more in depth, hands-on CAS training for people who are on the radios.

With his wife Gretchen by his side (and the first investor in the firm), they set out to change the level of CAS training by bringing a cost-effective, scalable solution to the market.

For this to be successful, Chef knew that he needed the best CAS pilots in the military. He also knew airlines were a tempting next step, so the Blue Air Training team set out to build a “no BS” approach to fighter pilots doing what they do best.

The popularity of Blue Air Training in the contract CAS market grew quickly. Blue Air Training started by providing training services for SOF JTACs at SOTACC and STS locations CONUS wide. Rapid expansion into the conventional JTAC training pipeline supporting ACC’s JTAC schoolhouse led to follow on support of CONUS wide ASOS and direct support to the USAF’s premier CAS exercise Green Flag West.

Today, Blue Air Training is made up of decorated veteran fighter pilots, JTACs, maintainers and ops professionals who are driven by supporting a mission to provide the most realistic training to JTACs outside of combat.

From the early days of a small team executing training missions flawlessly, to today with a team of over a hundred team members and more than 20 attack aircraft in the fleet, Blue Air Training is preparing our airmen and soldiers for the battlefield.

James “Chef” Barlow

CEO

Chef Barlow grew up in Tampa, Florida. Fall of 1991, he started at Florida State University under the Florida Academic Scholars Program.

Chef served twenty years in the United States Air Force as an A-10C Central Instructor School Instructor Pilot, Forward Air Control Airborne (FAC-A) Instructor, Mission Commander, and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) pilot. He’s the first fighter pilot since Vietnam to fly 100 combat missions in a single combat tour. He’s received seven Air Medals and been featured in New York Times Magazine, Stars and Stripes and other military publications. He is the former Director of Operations for Green Flag, the DOD’s premier Close Air Support training exercise. He oversaw and was responsible for the safe operations of 26 major exercises over a two-year period. Each exercise encompassed 5,000 to 9,000 personnel on a moving battlefield while U.S. and foreign fighter aircraft employed live weapons in tactical scenarios. He’s flown more than 4100 total hours including 2000+ A-10 hours and 410+ combat hours with 117 Confirmed Enemy KIA with experience in aircraft A-10, F-16, F-18, GR-4, and AC-130 Gunship. Chef literally helped “write the book” on the joint tactical manuals, JP3-09.3, JFIRE, and others used today by every ground and Close Air Support asset regardless of service branch.

With his primary business interests residing with Blue Air Training, Chef’s entrepreneurial endeavors have expanded into several other companies across diverse industries, including: Luxury Yacht Adventures, Outlaw Energy Drink, and Ross & Snow Shoes as well as founding and acting as Executive Director of Attack Aviation Foundation 501 (c)(3) to assist with the Veteran suicide problem.

Chef is married to Dr. Gretchen Barlow and has two sons. Their oldest son, Ben, is currently serving in the Air Force Reserves as a KC-135 Boom Operator, and has plans to attend FSU in January 2020. Their youngest son, Trent, is enlisting into the USAF upon high school graduation, June ’19.

Dr. Gretchen Barlow

Executive Manager

Dr. Gretchen Barlow, a clinical pharmacist, received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2004. Upon graduation she joined the Air Force where she managed both inpatient, outpatient and clinical pharmacy services. In 2007, she deployed to Afghanistan and served in combat as a member of the Bagram Air Base hospital trauma team. After serving in the Air Force, she worked as a clinical pharmacist at the Nellis Air Force Base hospital where she managed the ambulatory care clinics in addition to working in both the outpatient and inpatient pharmacies. In 2012, she changed her focus from clinical work to business management where she managed the prior authorization clinical pharmacy team at OptumRx, the pharmacy benefit management company for United Healthcare. In 2016, Gretchen became the Executive Manager at Blue Air Training and manages and leads the administrative heads for Human Resources, Security, Travel and Expense, and Invoicing.