Air Force

June 15, 2012

Weapons School exercise includes family perspectives

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By Staff Sgt. Will Coleman
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Airman 1st Class Daniel Gattey, 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics specialist, A1C Aaron Graham and A1C John Meehan, 757th AMXS crew chiefs, monitor the performance of an F-15C Eagle during a Mission Employment phase June 11, 2012, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The Airmen made sure the aircraft was safe to fly by conducting an extensive list of pre-flight checks.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The U.S. Air Force Weapons School completed its nine-day graduation exercise here June 13.

Upon graduation June 16, the students will have earned the title, “Weapons Officer,” and the Weapons School Graduate patch. The patches signify they have the expertise to advise military leaders at any level on the use of Air Force and sister services’ capabilities in concert.

The Mission Employment or ME Phase is the capstone exercise for Weapons School Class 12A, and involved more than 90 aircraft and 3,300 personnel from all U.S. military branches. It is the culmination of 23 Weapons Instructor Courses through the Weapons School’s 18 Weapons Squadrons, each of which focuses on a different weapons platform or capability.

The exercise simulated the full range of Air Force air, space and cyberspace operations, from participation in a limited conflict to full-scale war with a near-peer. Its goal was to practice integrating every Air Force capability into joint operations in the most complete and realistic way possible.

Maj. David Magnuson, 65th Aggressor Squadron pilot, participates as an enemy fighter during Employment phase June 11, 2012, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The ME phase exposes participants to a plethora of tactical problems, which mirror real-world situations friendly forces have seen in recent conflicts.

Two of the Air Forces’ newest Weapons Officers earned the title together as husband and wife.

Captains Dan and Heidi Pallister from the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yakota Air Base, Japan, were selected to attend as part of the 29th Weapons Squadron’s C-130 Hercules Weapons Course.

“It was nice to have each other’s back along the way because there were so many ups and downs that you go through, and to be right there, as opposed to having to call your spouse across the country,” Heidi said.

“It makes it difficult, too, because everybody else is just worried about themselves,” Dan said. “If I hooked a ride [failed an evaluated flight], she would stress out, or if she hooked a ride, I would stress out.”

While neither pilot encountered that problem, six months of graduate level academics topped with four-hours-of-sleep nights were alone enough to create stress. However, the couple overcame the stress to graduate the course, accomplishing what Dan said was one of the two greatest professional highpoints of his career, alongside earning his pilot wings.

Keoni Antolin, maintenance contractor working with the 57th Maintenance Group, fastens panels on top of an F-15 Strike Eagle during a Mission Employment phase June 11, 2012, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. ME Phase poses a challenging maintenance schedule due to the large numbers of aircraft and sorties.

Coincidentally, two of the instructors for the 12A Weapons School Class were also related: Majors Jeff Kassebaum from the 8th Weapons Squadron and John Kassebaum from the 433rd Weapons Squadron are brothers.

John, an F-15C pilot and air dominance curriculum instructor, just joined the weapons school recently, but said having his brother to reach out to as a fellow weapons officer at the school was “very cool.”

“It’s great to be able to reach out and bend someone’s ear who knows where you come from and understands your line of thinking,” John said. “He looks at things from a similar viewpoint based on our experiences as weapons officers, but from a totally different one based on his being in the [electronic warfare officer] world, versus an F-15 guy like me — so we can bounce things off one another and come up with a balanced opinion.”

Both brothers emphasized that, while being instructors at the same time was an advantage, the bottom line of being at the schoolhouse is ensuring their students are successful.

“The best thing about being here is to teach the guys who come here and make a difference in the future through what they learned,” said Jeff, who is part of the school’s integration shop. “Having a guy walk away from here with something new in his nugget – that’s a huge reward all in itself.”




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