World

May 11, 2012

Exchange pilots make difficult, exciting transition to fly with U.S. Air Force

Tags:
by Tech. Sgt. Jasmine Reif
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Brig. Gen. JD Harris, 56th Fighter Wing commander, presents his son, 2nd Lt. John Harris, his commissioning certificate during Arizona State University’s commissioning ceremony May 3. John was one of 17 second lieutenants commissioned from ASU’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program after the 2012 spring semester. He was selected to become a pilot and begins his Air Force career training at Vance Air Force Base, Okla. Harris said he was proud of his son’s hard work and looks forward to watching his career progress. John said it was nice to have his father at the ceremony. He continues a family tradition. His grandfather served 32 years in the Air Force – 12 enlisted and 21 years as a commissioned officer, according to Harris.

When Airmen move overseas they experience a new culture, but still have the air base to offer a taste of home; however, this is not the case for exchange pilots who come to the U.S. to fly with the Air Force.

Maj. Jimmy Kjelsgaard, 62nd Fighter Squadron Royal Danish air force exchange officer, and his family, saw the exchange program as an awesome opportunity to experience something different. Upon arrival, they immediately found great support from their unit and became friends with a Portuguese exchange family, who could relate to their situation.

“The biggest change is on the family side,” Kjelsgaard said. “My kids go to an American school and had to start learning English and find new friends. Our family and Danish friends were suddenly very far away and help was no longer just around the corner.”

Despite the adjustments needed at home, he has enjoyed the past year at Luke and sees the exchange program as a great way to increase understanding between foreign militaries.

“The exchange program is a bilateral agreement in order to enhance interoperability between allies,” Kjelsgaard said. “Normally it is an exchange between the same weapon platforms, like the F-16. Both countries learn how procedures, tactics and techniques are developed and employed differently which increases mutual understanding. The tour lengths vary from country to country, but my tour is three years.”

Apart from the always-great weather and slightly different tactics and techniques, the flying is not much different from what Kjelsgaard is used to back home. However, what does stand out is the sheer size difference between the two air forces.

Denmark has only 5.5 million inhabitants and the RDAF has one fighter wing with two fighter squadrons and less than 100 fighter pilots.

“It’s a small community and all the fighter pilots know each other,” Kjelsgaard said. “With such a small air force we don’t have all the specialized assets like tankers and radar aircraft. However, the short chain of command makes alignment easier.”

With so few pilots, the selection process has many phases of qualification testing, and training can take upward of six years from the first day of boot camp.

All soldiers, from enlisted to officers, in Denmark start out as ordinary recruits. After six months they are promoted to sergeant and those who are selected to be pilots start a six-month flying course. The flying course consists of flying and academics and is built to ensure the students will be able to cope with upcoming academics and requirements of being a pilot.

“If you pass the course, you will attend the academy for two years to become an officer,” Kjelsgaard said. “The academy ends with a promotion to second lieutenant and all the pilots are then sent for pilot education in the U.S. or Canada, depending on whether you’re selected for fighters, transports or helicopters.”

After the final portion of training is completed, the pilots earn their wings and they return to Denmark for aircraft specific conversion training and are then assigned to a front line squadron.

While there are differences in where and how the pilots are trained, the qualifications to become an exchange program instructor pilot are practically the same as in the U.S.

Kjelsgaard explained that all the pilots who apply for the exchange will be weighed, balanced and selected by the RDAF headquarters. This specific exchange program aims for an instructor pilot, so an experienced four-ship flight lead is a requirement. He also said that other requirements like language skills and an extended background check for security clearance is needed as well, but is more of a formality since his prior flight training in the U.S. had the same requirements.

It has been 19 years since Kjelsgaard started his first day at boot camp, and he still remembers how he felt drawn to the military as a child.

“I lived in a town that had an army headquarters, and whenever there was a big North Atlantic Treaty Organization exercise, the sky would be swarming with military jets and helicopters, which just fueled my fascination,” Kjelsgaard said. “The experience has been great so far. Initially it was hard work for the whole family but a great opportunity for all of us to see and experience the U.S.”

The 56th Fighter Wing has many opportunities for foreign officers to serve with the U.S. Air Force. Currently, the wing has exchange program officers from Chile, Germany, Portugal, Demark and Ecuador, with two more arriving in June from Japan and Belgium.

“It’s great to have Kjelsgaard in the squadron,” said Lt. Col. Brian Jackson, 62nd Fighter Squadron commander. “He brings a wealth of unique and diverse experiences that expand the knowledge and abilities of the other instructor pilots in the squadron.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
square

Luke conducts first F-35 training deployment

Senior Airman Thomas Spangler A 61st Fighter Squadron F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter taxis prior to take off April 15 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Ten F-35s from the 61st Fighter Squadron were sent to Nellis for th...
 
 

The gift of leadership

Gen. Mark Welsh III may have said it best, “Leadership is a gift. It’s given by those who follow. You have to be worthy of it.” As the people of this nation give their children up to serve in the armed forces we as leaders need to be ready to lead them as they are...
 
 

Have faith in Air Force system

Throughout our Air Force careers, we have all received extensive training covering the Air Force core values — integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. We talk about them on a daily basis in one capacity or another using them as buzz words to drive our point home or steer a...
 

 

Sidewinders fly missing-man formation

A missing-man formation flyover took place at the Air Force Academy Cemetery April 14, to honor a fallen Airman whose remains were repatriated and laid to rest. Pilots from the 311th Fighter Squadron of the 54th Fighter Group from Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, flew it. Capt. Richard Chorlins, U.S. Air Force Academy class...
 
 

Birth of a flagship

Courtesy photo An F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter taxis at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, facility just before its first flight March 31. This jet is one of several Lightning IIs destined for Luke Air Force Base in the near future after flight testing. Tail number 5056 is scheduled to be the 56th Fighter...
 
 

News Briefs April 24, 2015

Days of Remembrance There will be a Holocaust remembrance ceremony at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Luke Air Force Base Chapel sanctuary. The Hiding Place exhibit will be on display 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 1 in the chapel annex. AFA golf tournament The 16th Annual Air...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin