Salutes & Awards

August 1, 2014

From Spikes to Ducks to graduates

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Maj. WILLIAM McKIBBAN
309th Fighter Squadron

FROM LEFT: 1st Lts. Adam Fuhrmann, Mike Vasilou, Wesley Womble, Cody May, Aaron Frey, Ryan Loyd, Bryce Turner, Pete Fritz, Alex Tovani and Sean Rush graduate today from the 309th Fighter Squadron Class 14-ABC.

America’s newest fighter pilots are ready to join the most lethal combat air force the world has ever known. The seven active-duty and three Air National Guard officers of class 14-ABC have successfully completed the F-16 Basic Course and will celebrate this accomplishment today with loved ones, academic instructors and instructor pilots.

Class 14-ABC’s stay at Luke Air Force Base began nine months ago with an intense initial phase of academic and simulator training. Much of the course’s 236 hours of academic training, 10 formal exams and 42 simulator missions were concentrated in this initial phase, although ground training continued throughout the course.

After a month of ground training, the pilots moved from the 56th Training Squadron to the then 62nd Fighter Squadron.

Flight training started with the transition phase, which taught them to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon in accordance with technical orders, Air Force instructions and Federal Aviation Administration guidance.

These initial sorties were flown with an instructor until each student proved he was ready to fly solo. Following was the one vs. one dogfighting phase, where they demonstrated competence in dynamic maneuvering under high g-force in relation to adversaries in close proximity.

Once proficient in basic one vs. one, they progressed to two vs. one, two vs. two and eventually four vs. four air combat tactics missions, mimicking real-world tactical employment of the F-16.

Upon reaching basic proficiency in air-to-air employment, 14-ABC moved on to mastering air-to-ground skill sets. This began with basic weapon delivery sorties where the students were instructed on the employment of unguided bombs on the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

They were then introduced to the munitions they will employ in combat after departing Luke — laser-guided bombs and GPS-guided munitions. While most missions consisted of simulated employment, each student had the opportunity to employ live weapons.

The class progressed to close-air support and surface attack tactics phases where they flew in forces of four to eight aircraft. These “missionized” scenarios most closely replicate the types of combat missions they will execute in support of national objectives.

Class 14-ABC was presented one final challenge, Operation BEGIN COMPLIANCE. This exercise consisted of a representative air tasking order and mission planning process, culminating in complex force-on-force scenarios integrated with warriors from both the 21st FS and 607th Air Control Squadron. These missions consisted of nearly 20 “blue” fighters simultaneously attacking targets defended by simulated surface-to-air missiles and “red” fighters.

In the last month of the class, 14-ABC became Wild Ducks when the squadron assumed the colors of the 309th Fighter Squadron and the 62nd Fighter Squadron stood down in preparation for the transition to the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.

While the effort and perseverance required to graduate was all theirs, class 14-ABC’s graduation would not have been possible without the combined efforts of Team Luke. From across base, there isn’t one individual who didn’t contribute to the success of the graduates. The members of the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Unit moved mountains to keep the oldest F-16s in the Air Force flying, providing superior training. The graduation was also made possible by the Mad Mallard instructor pilots who pushed, cajoled, motivated and challenged them.

While their training at Luke is complete, they have more mountains to climb and qualifications to earn. Some may even see combat before the Wild Ducks graduate the next flock of students who began their journey this week.

Congratulations 14-ABC. Thank you Team Luke.

Once a Duck, Always a Duck!




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