HomeNewsArticle Display

Support leads to success for F-22 students in Key West

A man stands on a ladder near the wing of a plane

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Vidal Rivera, 325th Maintenance Squadron low observable craftsman, places tape on the wing of an F-22 Raptor assigned to the 325th Fighter Wing at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, July 21, 2021. Multiple squadrons from the 325th FW mobilized to NAS Key West to support the F-22 Formal Training Unit capstone where student pilots participated in dissimilar air combat training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Brad Sturk)

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor sits on the flight line.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor assigned to the 325th Fighter Wing during sunrise at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, July 14, 2021. The 325th FW mobilized to NAS Key West to support the F-22 Formal Training Unit capstone where student pilots participate in dissimilar air combat training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Brad Sturk)

A pilot shows a crew chief controls inside a T-38 Talon

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. “Claw” Pennell, 2nd Fighter Training Squadron chief of training, right, briefs Airman 1st Class Garrett Fritz, 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-22 crew chief, left, on the dashboard controls of a T-38 Talon cockpit before a familiarization flight at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, July 14, 2021. Familiarization flights help Airmen understand the rigors of flight and better understand the mission they support from the ground. (U.S. Air Force photo by Brad Sturk)

A man laces up a flight suit

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Karcher, 325th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment lead trainer, prepares a g-suit for fitting at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, July 21, 2021. The AFE flight is responsible for ensuring all flight equipment, including helmets, g-suits, life preservers and other items, are in proper working order and maintained for operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tiffany Price)

the air intake of an F-22 raptor and two men working in the background

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conduct post-flight procedures on an F-22 Raptor at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, July 14, 2021. The jet's intake must be plugged with specialized pads, usually bearing the home unit's emblem, after each flight to keep any foreign objects from damaging the intatake. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tiffany Price)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla --

More than 250 personnel assigned to the 325th Fighter Wing packed up and went on temporary duty to Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, from July 10 - 24. They travelled in support of the 43d Fighter Squadron’s F-22 Formal Training Unit capstone.

Units from Tyndall Air Force Base and Eglin AFB were present to ensure F-22 Raptor student pilots, who flew in 54 sorties for the dissimilar air combat training over the southern Gulf of Mexico, were met with success.

“The students saw the immense team that ensures F-22s are ready to go in a moment’s notice,” said Lt. Col. “Vader” Peterson, 43d FS commander. “Whether it was maintainers fixing jets, defenders guarding the flight line, or communications personnel establishing connectivity to home station, the students saw the teamwork that enables us to use the F-22 to establish air dominance.”

In addition to the F-22s, the 2nd Fighter Training Squadron, which flew 117 sorties in T-38 Talons, supported the capstone. The 2nd FTS was able to provide adversary air and familiarization flights during training missions for Airmen throughout the trip.

“All flying operations require a huge support team to get one pilot in one airplane airborne to execute a highly complex mission and return safely,” said Lt. Col. “Motor” Blandino, 2nd FTS commander. “Familiarization flights allow members of this support team an opportunity to experience the results of their contribution. They are literally a part of the adversary air team supporting an F-22 student training mission.”

In order to prepare individuals for familiarization flights, personnel from the 325th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment unit taught Airmen egress procedures and ensured they were properly fitted with proper flight gear.

“[One of] our top priorities during the TDY was to not only ensure the safety of the pilots, but also the [familiarization flyers] on the T-38 Talon,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Karcher, 325th OSS AFE lead trainer. “One of my main duties focused on educating these Airmen on the theory of operation for the gear they would be utilizing during their flight.”

The safety of the pilots relies heavily on AFE and the maintainers on the ground. The 325th Maintenance Group quality assurance section is made up of maintainers who previously worked in a variety of specialties within the maintenance career field. Once assigned to QA, they help ensure everyone working on the jets is staying safe and doing things properly.

“Our top priorities are safety and reliability; we are generating the mission and doing it in a safe manner,” said Staff Sgt. Vincent Danh, 325th MXG QA inspector. “We are out here to make sure [maintainers] deliver effective, safe aircraft and everybody gets home safely and has a good time.”

All of this safety and support creates an environment where the student pilots can focus on making their training a success.

“The TDY was a success for the students,” said Peterson. “[The students] received world-class training in the air and on the ground. In the air they had the opportunity to train to our most challenging mission sets. On the ground they experienced first-hand how we project unrivaled combat airpower.”