Air Force

October 18, 2013

At ‘tip of spear,’ passion keeps pilots sharp

Tags:
Staff Sgt. LUTHER MITCHELL
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Lt. Col. Shamsher Mann, 62nd Fighter Squadron commander, flies an F-16 Fighting Falcon over the Gulf of Mexico. Mann deployed to Iraq in 2001 and 2003.

It’s a dark night over Baghdad. Storm clouds rumble with the sound of thunder. In poor weather, Air Force pilots move in to escort a navy strike package, dodging surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery fire, wondering whether they will make it back alive.

This is part of the job for Air Force fighter pilots, but a love for the job and good training keep pilots ready to fight.

Lt. Col. Shamsher Mann, 62nd Fighter Squadron commander, has been flying F-16s for more than 15 years. He said his mother told him he was playing with airplanes before he could talk. He had two dream careers, either become a fighter pilot or play in the National Football League. Mann chose to focus on being a fighter pilot. He said it was a good thing that the first career choice worked out since career choice two was never going to happen.

“I love my job,” Mann said. “I’ve had the opportunity to fly all over the world and go to combat in the F-16. It’s been exciting and rewarding.”

Mann, who played football in high school, compares flying jets to being good at a sport. Pilots train every day just like athletes, so when it’s time to perform a mission they’re ready.

Mann deployed to Iraq for Operation Northern Watch, Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He describes his first combat mission with gut-wrenching detail.

“It was intense,” Mann said. “You spend years training for combat scenarios and the first time you go into hostile territory, it’s like wrapping up all the emotions you’ve ever felt — love, hate, fear, anger — all at once and magnifying them a thousand times. Your heart is beating a thousand beats per minute.”

Pilots spend three to seven hours in the air or sometimes even more flying combat sorties. They receive taskings from the ground and are continuously on the hunt for the enemy. Jets are refueled in flight, targets are updated and munitions are put on targets until none are left.

During combat operations, pilots must be calm and calculating while dealing with the intensity of being in combat. This means maintaining the highest level of personal readiness.

“We mentally rest, stay in good physical condition and eat right,” said Maj. Derek Pegg, 62nd FS assistant director of operations. “We really don’t know how long we’re going to be airborne. We must mentally get ourselves in gear and define what it is we’re going to accomplish.”

Stakes are high when flying a $30 million aircraft into combat and getting shot at, Mann said. It’s mentally and physically straining, but pilots constantly prepare.

“Pilots go through survival, evasion, resistance and escape training, and have very specific plans for how to evade the enemy or what to do if they are captured by the enemy in combat,” he said.

Being a fighter pilot sometimes means having to put bombs on target. It’s a matter of life and death, kill or be killed, and is a fact pilots must accept.

“Knowing you are putting ordnance toward the earth, you accept that fact as part of war,” Mann said.

“There are people on the ground shooting at you or maybe friendly troops, and both of you are trying to get the other first. It’s a matter of one being successful and the other not. When the nation says it is time to go to war, all hesitation needs to go by the wayside. You reflect on missions in quiet times, but I’ve never had any regrets.”

Mann has described his most intense missions as almost spiritual experiences and says they gave him confidence that his priorities in life were right. His advice to young pilots is to fly with a zeal.

“Fly fighters like an athlete approaches his sport, with passion,” Mann said. “You want to be a good fighter pilot and learn from your mistakes. You can’t treat it like a nine-to-five job. Our training prepares us for the mechanics of flying fighters, but to be a good fighter pilot you have to put in passion and effort.”




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


 
 

 
Courtesy graphic

Fitness center gets Xtreme makeover

Courtesy graphic Above is an architectural rendering of the changes to the outside of the Luke Air Force Base Bryant Fitness Center. Renovations also include a remodel of most of the interior. The project will take place over t...
 
 

People — Air Force’s greatest asset

As I reflect on almost 25 years of military service, I find it easy to remember my assignments, the multiple jobs I’ve had and duties I have performed. I have served on four continents and for four presidents. Within that same time period, our nation has been in numerous campaigns ranging from operations Desert Storm...
 
 

Character, good or bad, will be passed on

Your character is who you are when no one is watching. At the same time, your character is who you are when everyone is watching. Your character is the sum of your morals and values and the quality of your character is of the utmost importance when leading others. In addition to your own values...
 

 
Senior Airman 
JAMES HENSLEY

History gets paint job

Senior AirmanJAMES HENSLEY James Bridges and Hayden Yager, civilian contractors, prepare the F-104C Starfighter static display for painting Aug. 12 in the Luke Air Force Base Airpark. The static displays in the airpark will be ...
 
 

News Briefs August 29, 2015

Base-wide exercise The 56th Fighter Wing will begin an active-shooter exercise between 8 and 10 a.m. Thursday. It is expected to continue throughout the day. The exercise will include military and local, county and state law enforcement, and fire departments. On and off-base residents should expect traffic disruptions, gate closures or delays, and interruption of...
 
 
Tech. Sgt. 
BARBARA PLANTE

944th Airmen live life as military couple

Tech. Sgt.BARBARA PLANTE Staff Sgt. Adam Jenkins and Senior Airman Cassandra Jenkins, 944th Logistics Readiness Squadron, are a dual-military couple and work together as maintainers in the refueling vehicle maintenance shop. St...
 




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=""> <s> <strike> <strong>