Every fighter squadron at Luke Air Force Base has a central area manned by Airmen who make sure pilots are able to fly daily.
“The operations desk is where each pilot stops to get important information and the green light to fly before stepping to their aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Jessica Williams, 309th Fighter Squadron aviation resource management specialist.
Getting a pilot ready to go is no easy task and this section helps monitor and track the pilots’ training requirements.
“For a pilot to fly, they need to have all of their required training done,” Williams said. “We make sure they have completed their go, no-go tasks such as egress, altitude chamber and medical. We have a system and know every pilot’s requirements. When they get close to expiring on events we let the pilot know so they can get the training done to renew that requirement.”
Pilots can be issued a “no-go” if they aren’t up to date on training or don’t complete it in time and can be stopped from flying until the requirement is complete.
Keeping pilots up to date on training is not the only thing the SARM does for the squadron – they are also a relay point for information.
“The ops desk keeps in contact with the maintainers and we relay that information to the pilots,” Williams said. “So, if a jet can’t fly and a pilot is going to be switched to a new aircraft or delayed, maintenance lets us know. It also works the other way if a pilot notices something not quite right during a flight they can tell us and we pass it on.”
A squadron operations desk also keeps in contact with base operations, the air traffic control tower, weather and others to ensure pilots get all the information they need before flying.
“Before stepping to an aircraft, the pilots receive a briefing from the operations supervisor,” said Maj. Brendan Shannon, 309th FS assistant director of operations. “We give them weather conditions, the tail numbers of the aircraft they are flying that day and other information they might need.”
Giving briefings and ensuring pilots are good to go is their primary job, but every so often the job of the operations desk will change drastically.
“One thing we have to do that doesn’t happen often is mishaps, and we get busy when that happens,” said Airmen 1st Class Britney Carter-Grimes, 309th FS SARM. “If something like that happens we become the center of activity. All information flows through us and we have to disseminate it to the squadron. During times like that the phones never stop and it’s very fast paced.”
The ops supervisor and SARM work hand in hand to make sure the flying operations of the squadrons run smoothly.
“We are here to get pilots in the air and trained,” Williams said. “We are part of the mission to train the world’s greatest F-16 pilots, by making sure they can fly every day.”