After 15 years, the 56th Operations Group F-16 Intelligence Formal Training Unit graduated its 1,000th student today at Luke Air Force Base.
Intelligence personnel started going through the F-16 IFTU, originally known as the Top-Off Intelligence Course, in late 1997, according to Ed Rutkowski, 56th OG F-16 IFTU course manager, who became an instructor shortly after the course began.
â€œThe 1,000th graduate is an important milestone because it shows how far we have come,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m proud to have been around to watch it all unfold. The 1,000th graduate reflects the hard work of countless instructors over the years.â€
The F-16 IFTU was the first Initial Qualification Training of its kind, Rutkowski said. It has highest number of students and graduates compared to other intelligence IQT programs around the Air Force.
â€œOur primary attendees are intelligence Airmen assigned to F-16 units,â€ he said. â€œStudents vary in rank from airman first class to lieutenant colonel.â€
Due to the classified nature of the course, the instructors and students couldnâ€™t divulge too many details. But, the goal of the course is to prepare Airmen for life surrounded by F-16 fighter pilots.
â€œThe course begins with a building block approach to train Airmen on fundamentals and concepts before moving on to the systems and capabilities of the F-16 itself, to include the weapons the Viper can carry and employ â€” both air-to-air and air-to-ground,â€ Rutkowski said. â€œThen, we teach students about the capabilities of adversary aircraft, anti-aircraft artillery, surface-to-air missile systems, and the tactics different countries use to employ their systems.â€
Although this is a mandatory requirement for intelligence Airmen who work with operational F-16s, all 11 graduates had different reasons for taking the course. One said he attended the course to prepare for weapons school.
â€œThis course taught me that the more you understand your own capabilities, the more effectively you can employ your forces,â€ said 1st Lt. Kevin Lukowiak, 23rd Fighter Group chief of intelligence academics, who is stationed at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. â€œThe course has given me a detailed understanding of how to tactically employ F-16s.â€
Tech. Sgt. Mark Miller, 52nd Operations Support Squadron, said he attended the course because heâ€™s never worked in an F-16 unit and needed to gain experience for his new position at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.
â€œThe most beneficial portion of the course was giving a pre-mission brief to F-16 pilots,â€ he said. â€œI feel there is no better feedback we could have gotten.â€
Although the five-week course was very challenging, Miller said it was well worth his time and efforts.
â€œAfter taking this course, I will feel much more comfortable and confident in my unit,â€ he said. â€œI know if Iâ€™m called upon, I can handle the additional responsibilities.â€