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He’s a perfect Case for the Navy: Brookhaven native finds his niche in the US military

Words are powerful.

They can express a wide range of emotions like love, anger and joy.

For Brookhaven native Collins Case, a lieutenant in the United States Navy, other words come with those emotions — honor, change, tragedy and family are a few.

Case’s journey to the Navy began 13 years ago at Mississippi State University. During college, he would work various jobs between semesters to earn money for school.

“I worked for two different construction companies clearing timber and I also worked for a paving crew, creating parking lot designs and laying asphalt,” Case said. “I was even the lead furniture salesman for two years in a row at the Tupelo furniture market.”

He was working a day and night job trying to save money for an upcoming summer internship under Sen. Thad Cochran in Washington, D.C. During his summer internship, Case served as a liaison for military and NASA appropriations committees and would further gain an appreciation for military operations.

Upon returning from D.C., Case knew in his heart that he wanted to join the military.

“My family instilled in me a tremendous amount of respect for military servicemen. When I graduated college, I decided to postpone my dreams of starting my own business and join the U.S. Navy,” Case said. “I graduated from the Mississippi State College of Business and Industry in the spring of 2008 and reported to Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, that fall.”

True calling

While in the Navy, Case had found his true passion for flying. Perhaps, he found inspiration from his grandfather, Houston “Big Daddy” Case and his wife Thelma — who were both private pilots.

Prior to serving as Brookhaven mayor, Houston worked as a Brookhaven alderman in the 1950s and secured funding with other local pilots to build the Brookhaven Airport.

“He owned and operated several airplanes, as well as an airplane dealership,” Case said. “This passion for flying matriculated down to me, so I became a naval flight officer.”

Naval flight officers or “NFO” sit in the back of the aircraft and are in charge of directing and executing that particular aircraft’s mission.

“I have primarily flown in the EP-3 ARIES (Airborne Reconnaissance Integrated Electronic System) and the P-3C Orion,” Case said. “My job is to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions worldwide.”

Case has deployed six times to various locations around the world.

“Most of my time has been spent in the U.S. Central Command flying over Iraq, Afghanistan, the Arabian Gulf and off the Horn of Africa,” said Case. Other deployments include South America missions, as well as the South China Sea, East China Sea, Philippine Sea and the Korean Peninsula.

For Case, it’s not all about work, he finds joy in returning home to his wife and kids.

Family is everything

In 2010, on the day he completed flight school and earned his Wings of Gold, he proposed to Lauren Smith Case of Brookhaven. They’ve been blessed with two daughters, 4-year-old Lillie and 1-year-old Mae.

He’s stationed in Whidbey Island, Washington. He recently returned from the Philippines and he’s scheduled to deploy again this fall to locations in Europe and Asia.

“Lauren and our daughters will be moving back to Brookhaven this fall while I’m away, as our youngest daughter, Mae, will be undergoing surgical treatments for congenital development dysplasia of the hips,” he said.

A huge loss

Tragedy struck the Case family less than a year ago, as Collins lost his brother Grant in a vehicle accident in the fall. It’s an event that still shapes Collins into the man he is today.

“To this day, and I think forever, speaking or thinking of his death is a shocking reality to which I will never fully come to grips,” Case said. “However, while navigating through tragedy like that, it’s certain that you will either become weaker or stronger. You will not be the same. My family has leaned tremendously on our faith and community, while knowing we will see him again.”

As for the future, Case realizes right now is an exciting time to be in aviation.

“The Navy entrusts its members early on with a huge amount of responsibility and leadership opportunities,” Case said. “As we see a large shift from manned aircraft to unmanned aircraft in both military and commercial applications, my current squadron operates the most advanced radar in military history. Its capabilities are unmatched and ensures the United States has superiority over any other country or potential adversary.”

Flying in a U.S. Navy aircraft provides opportunities to work together with people from all walks of life, he said.

“To me, working with others towards a common goal, which is bigger than your individual aspirations, is an inspirational experience and true honor,” Case said.

“Life is a lot like a flight. There are ups, downs and sometimes rough turbulence, but stay focused on the mission and enjoy the ride.”