Salutes & Awards

January 24, 2014

Emerald Knights graduation

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Lt. Col. CHRISTOPHER BACON
308th Fighter Squadron Commander

308th FS graduates 8 to combat air force

Class 13-ZBG graduates eight fighter pilots today. They are, from left, lst Lts. Kaitlin Meiser, Eric Anderson and Andrew Buttitta; Capts. John Waters and Matthew Tucker; and 1st Lts. Dominic Collins, Michael Arnold and Andrew Taylor. Their hometowns and follow-on bases are listed below.

Today marks the culmination of nine months of demanding aviation training for eight students from the 308th Fighter Squadron B-Course, class 13-ZBG. These warriors will go forth as newly minted F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter pilots, ready and willing to do their nation’s bidding.

The journey to fly the world’s most combat-proven aircraft was not easy. It consisted of 246 hours of academic lectures and computer-based training with 10 demanding tests. The graduates spent nearly 60 hours executing 45 challenging simulators where they learned to handle emergency procedures and execute air-to-air and air-to-ground tactics. The most challenging and rewarding part of their journey came when they strapped on the mighty Viper and got a firsthand account of what she can do, flying a total of 640 hours.

Flight training began with the transition phase where students learned how to take off, land, fly instruments and simulated flameout landings. They learned how the F-16 handles at various flight regimens. The transition phase concluded with an instrument/qualification flight evaluation where the students proved they could fly the F-16 in a nontactical manner.

The next phase of training was advanced handling in which students garnered a better understanding of the F-16s maneuvering capability. The students learned current techniques for employing the F-16 in one vs. one dog fighting and taking the aircraft to its maneuvering limits.

Next was the air-to-air phase in which they learned to employ the F-16 in two-ship and four-ship air combat maneuvers where they operated as an element in visual engagements. They also learned how to employ as an element in beyond visual range engagements during tactical intercept training. Once versed in two-ship employment they progressed to four-ship employment where they learned their roles and responsibilities as wingmen in the most lethal of F-16 formations.

Once proficient in air-to-air employment, they switched gears and learned to operate in an air-to-ground role. The air-to-ground phase of training consisted of surface attack, surface attack tactics and close-air support. In SA the students learned to employ unguided and guided weapons in a controlled environment where the focus was on learning the numerous air-to-ground munitions in the F-16 inventory. In SAT the students built on the attack mechanics they learned in SA while adding more “real world” aspects of tactical flying like dynamic targeting. In CAS students learned to integrate with ground forces and provide them support in an environment where the enemy is in close proximity to friendlies.

The capstone of class 13-ZBG’s training was Operation Begin Compliance. This complex mission consisted of 20 friendly fighters attacking a multitude of targets while defending against eight adversary fighters and many simulated surface-to-air threats. The planning and execution of this mission was invaluable to their training and provided a taste of the combat to come in their careers.

Behind 13-ZBG was an entire fighter wing of organizations paramount in their success. Emerald Knights instructor pilots worked many hours to teach these students how to be fighter pilots in the air and in life as did 56th Training Squadron academic instructors. Lockheed Martin instructors provided invaluable knowledge as well as fighter pilot history, which helped to develop these students into warriors. Most importantly, 13-ZBG would not be where they are without the dedication of the 308th Aircraft Maintenance Unit who worked long hours and many weekends to keep some of the oldest F-16s in the Air Force flying.

Congratulations 13-ZBG, you’re time has come! Now go forth with “Strength and Honor!”




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