47th Fighter Squadron: Laying the Foundation of an Attack Pilot

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Maj. James “GoFUR” Buchanan, 47th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, leans on an A-10 Thunderbolt II Aug. 17, 2020 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Matthew Bruch)
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At Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., an Air Force Reserve unit exists for the purpose of training and producing A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots for the U.S. Air Force.

The 47th Fighter Squadron is part of the 944th Fighter Wing (based at Luke AFB, Ariz.) whose mission is to “Forge and Fight” by training fighter pilots across the country, covering four separate fighter aircraft.

First Lt. Sean Hathaway, student pilot
First Lt. Sean Hathaway, student pilot, prepares for take-off Aug. 17, 2020 before flight in the A-10 Thunderbolt II at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Matthew Bruch)

The A-10, however, is unique with regard to its air-to-ground capabilities. The men and women who fly this aircraft are frequently tasked with supporting troops on the ground, and do so quite regularly in close proximity to ground forces.

Maj. James “GoFUR” Buchanan is one of the pilots tasked by the 944th FW to forge the next generation of A-10 attack pilots.

“By far, this is the most experienced A-10 squadron that I have ever been a part of,” said Buchanan.

It is that extensive of experience these reservists bring to the table which helps produce some of the Air Force’s best close air support (CAS) experts.

“They [instructor pilots] have years and years of experience between them,” said 1st Lt. Sean Hathaway, student pilot. “From Iraq to Afghanistan, these instructors have experience employing every type of weapon we employ and how all of the tactics have changed. Their experience brings it together and helps us learn what we are here for.”

Engaging enemy in such close proximity to U.S. ground forces, sometimes within 30 meters, is not a job to be taken lightly.

First Lt. Sean Hathaway, student pilot, inspects the A-10 Thunderbolt II
First Lt. Sean Hathaway, student pilot, inspects the A-10 Thunderbolt II Aug. 17, 2020 before flight at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Matthew Bruch)

“Whenever I am training these students,” Buchanan added, “I want to make sure they are prepared to make important decisions and bear the weight and responsibility.”

But it is not just being experts at CAS that these instructor pilots bring to the table. As reservists, these pilots with the 944th FW are able to provide advice to students about life as a civilian as well.

“Not only do our instructors bring a breadth of experience to the unit, but they also pass along to the [students] going through the program that there is more to life than just work,” Buchanan said.

The life outside of work not only includes how to balance a personal life and a family, but also guidance for how to transition out of military life when the time comes. From creating attack pilots to preparing students for life outside the military, these reservists are leveraging all of their experiences to forge the greatest Airmen in the world.

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