F-16 pilots continue to graduate, continue to fight

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Courtesy photograph

Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Ridge Shan

Class 16-ABC of Luke Air Force Base’s F-16 basic flight course training curriculum stand in recognition at their graduation ceremony Dec. 19, 2016. Their training lasted approximately nine months and progressed from classroom academics to full aerial combat exercises

A class of F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots under the tutelage of instructor pilots from the 309th Fighter Squadron graduated Dec. 16, 2016, following approximately nine months of training at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

Class 16-ABC completed their comprehensive basic flight course in a high-tempo curriculum stressing mission-ready combat skills. Training to refine their abilities will continue at the various bases they will go to, but the B-course has left them ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

“It was fast-paced and challenging, but it was definitely rewarding,” said Maj. David Sproehnle, 309th FS F-16 graduate pilot and class leader. “I’ve been deployed before and have been in combat in other aircraft, so I understand how important it is that we do our job. I think everybody understands the severity of what we may need to do, but we all know what we signed up for and we’re ready.”

As a reflection of the depth of their training, each graduating pilot will be sent directly to operational units around the world.

“Whether these guys are going to U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa, Pacific Air Forces, or stateside, none of them are going to sit for two or three years,” said Maj. David Bennett, 309th FS director of operations. “Most of them are going to deploy pretty soon after they get there, or be in places where they’re already near potential flashpoints.”

The students’ training time was administered in two major parts:  classroom academic learning over about two months and aerial combat training over about seven months.

“We started class back in March,” Sproehnle said. “The academic portion lasted all day, every day in classrooms for about four to six weeks with some simulator time mixed in.”

The flight phase of the students’ training gave them practice in virtually all of the mission-sets they are expected to be capable of completing as combat Air Force fighter pilots.

Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Ridge Shan

Maj. David Sproehnle, 309th Fighter Squadron graduate pilot and class leader, speaks on behalf of class 16-ABC of Luke Air Force Base’s F-16 basic flight course training curriculum at their graduation ceremony Dec. 19, 2016.