WeVett Home Loans, your one-stop shop for all your military home buying resources.

USAFA Cadet to Content Creator, Sam Eckholm’s Swift Rise to Media Success

Sam Eckholm

Have you ever considered taking that leap of faith to make your hobby a full-time career? For the majority of us, those pipe dreams never quite come to fruition.

But for Sam Eckholm, that leap of faith has led to the beginning of an incredible journey.

Sam started his first successful career as an Air Force Officer, graduating from the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in 2018.

His second and current career, as an Aerospace and Defense Content Creator, was sparked from his unique talent as a visual storyteller, a need in the military recruiting space, and a lot of hard work.

Now, just two years after finishing his military commitment, Sam is a highly recognized and influential face in the military education, entertainment and recruiting world.

Let’s take it back to where it all started – as a USAFA Cadet.

What led to you attending the United States Air Force Academy?

Sam Eckholm 3Sam: My dad graduated in 1989 and my Uncle graduated in 1993. Military service was just in my blood. Even though I learned about USAFA through them, I really just wanted to do something different from all of my friends in high school. I became obsessed with the Academy. I watched all of the videos I could find, which in the early 2000s there weren’t many, and tried to make myself the best candidate to apply.

My first two years at the Academy were a total shock to the system. It was a bit different than how my dad had described it to me, but I knew I was committed and going to persevere. Once I opened my mind up, my whole experience changed. The friends I met and the opportunities I had, like being a Cadet Squadron Commander, made my Academy experience so worth it.

You commissioned as a Public Affairs Officer (PAO), tell us more about that journey.

Sam: Honestly, I thought I was going to be a pilot and follow the family trend, but I was also open to other career paths. I felt I may be better serving in a role where I could use my personality, talk with others, and share my love for the Air Force.

Once I was commissioned as a PAO, my first assignment was Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. I was the only one from the Academy PCSing there and I didn’t know anyone. During a morning PT session running around the track, I heard an F-22 Raptor flying overhead. I stopped and watched as it performed a demo team practice—I was amazed. I immediately turned to my boss and asked how I could be a part of that.

Fast forward a few months and I was able to spend two years with the F-22 demo team. I traveled all around the world, met thousands of people, ran [the demo team’s] social media channels, and became a trusted photographer and videographer for them. I had always done photography and film as a hobby in high school, but this truly sparked something in me that I wanted to do full time.

What led to documentary style filming full-time?

Sam Eckholm 2Sam: After my Langley assignment I went to Scott Air Force Base to do typical PAO duties. In the little free time I had, I was making videos. I put out videos I wished I had earlier when applying to the Academy and learning about the Air Force.

I began building a following of people interested in the military. From the Top 10 Reasons to Join the Air Force to the very first video I made of flying in a T-38, I realized I was onto something.

People began reaching out, I started making videos on the side for the Navy in Norfolk, a C-130 video… I was met with a fork in the road: Did I continue my Air Force service or did I serve in a different way, as a civilian making videos?

I realized that my greatest asset to the Air Force would be serving in a role that allowed me to use my talents to inspire the next generation of Airmen. I separated at the end of my 5-year Academy commitment and began chasing this dream with everything I had.

What’s been the hardest part of the journey?

Sam: Leaving anything that’s structured and full-time is hard. I gave up a lot of benefits, but I knew I had to take a chance if this was going to work. 

The hardest part was assembling everything in place. Now that I have a team of 4-people, it’s not just supporting myself anymore, it’s about the team. When you do this as a job versus for fun, it’s different. There’s a business to run, a website to manage, different projects, like the course that I launched on getting into the Academy, and lots of parts you don’t realize until you do it. This has been 100 times harder than my military job because of how much I have to do to keep going.

What is your favorite video that you’ve created?

Sam Eckholm 5Sam: Hands down, Air Force Special Tactics. It was a new format the team decided to experiment with and we had super unique access into an Air Force mission that had never been given before. This was me truly going through a selection process with actual candidates attempting to become Special Tactics Officers. I wanted to show it as in-depth as possible in a mini-documentary format.

It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. Between having very minimal time to train leading up to it to doing the long, physically grueling days with the guys, it was so eye opening and humbling.

The reactions from the video have been so worth it. The comments and reactions from people who now want to join or went to talk to a recruiter—the work is so worth the reward.

What’s in the future for you?

Sam: The dream has always been to do this full-time. I’ve been at it 100% for the last six to eight months. I want to expand into all of the other branches and see how much of an audience I can build. I think YouTube will continue as the main platform for the next couple years.

Shooting for the stars would be streaming type series on Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV… any of those services. It’s just the pinnacle of notoriety. The opportunities are endless. As long as people keep watching, I’m going to keep up my mission of education and entertainment.

Do you have any advice for people jumping into their own business?

Sam Eckholm 4

Sam: It is never going to be easy. It is never going to be something where it all makes sense. I was given advice that the initial leap of faith is always hard. I knew I would always regret it if I didn’t take the shot.

Make sure you have certain things in place, don’t do something crazy, and have a back-up plan to take care of yourself. Establish good relationships. Get people who can help you out and encourage you.

Lastly, don’t let people deter you. It’s your dream, go for it!

Sam’s story is as interesting as it is inspirational, and the military community continues to grow and reach a broader audience because of his dedicated, creative work.

If you’d like to learn more about Sam – you can find him on all major social channels: YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, Discord.

If you are interested in applying to be a cadet at the Air Force Academy, check out Sam’s course: https://www.academyblueprint.com/

Share the Post:

Related Topics

You Might Also Like

2024 VA Home Loan Guide

VA Guide

This short guide is designed to provide you the most important details of the VA Loan in an easy-to-use format. Print it out and read at your leisure.

Skip to content