MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
For undergraduate student aviators, submitting a “dream sheet” of preferred aircraft can be a daunting task. While students can talk to their flight instructors that come from all parts of the Combat and Mobility Air Forces, there is no substitute for the hands-on interaction with the jets and talking to recent flying training graduates about their experiences in follow-on training, operational squadrons, and deployment life.
In support of 19th Air Force’s initiative to revitalize the pilot training enterprise in conjunction with Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) 2.5, over six days in September the 389th Fighter Squadron “Thunderbolts” visited three UPT bases with four F-15E Strike Eagles. Visiting Vance, Laughlin, and Sheppard Air Force Bases, T-Bolt pilots and weapon systems officers (WSOs) spoke to more than 300 student pilots in each stage of training – pre-flight academics, Phase 2 T-6 Texan II flying training, and Phase 3 advanced training in the T-38 Talon.
With a jam-packed schedule of COVID mitigated small group “pet the jet” tours and capabilities briefs, T-Bolt aircrew showcased the unique capabilities of the F-15E and spoke broadly about the lifestyle of fighter aviation for Combat Air Forces aircrew. Additionally, the T-Bolts met with more than 75 maintenance tech school trainees that will go on to be crew chiefs and specialists on jets like the F-15E.
“Being able to come back to the base where I graduated pilot training and talk to both student pilots and maintainers was incredibly rewarding,” said Captain Jennifer “Glock” Gillette, a Sheppard AFB Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) class 16-07 graduate who led one of the two trips as a multi-ship flight lead.
In addition to speaking to students, the T-Bolts also used the opportunity to go off-station to practice critical warfighting skills. Enroute to Vance AFB, the 389th conducted aerial refueling training for both T-Bolt aircrew and KC-135 student boom operators from the 54th Air Refueling Squadron. Furthermore, by conducting “cross-country” operations at fields with little or no F-15E specific maintenance support, 389th FS pilots and WSOs were able to practice and learn more about the aircraft, bed down procedures, and their own maintenance they would need to provide if required to conduct adaptive basing.
Under this adaptive basing construct, now practiced during Gunfighter Flag exercises, crews and small agile teams of maintenance and security personnel would be required to land in austere environments and rapidly turn aircraft to combat operations.
“Overall, the trips were a great success in showcasing the diversity of the F-15E community and capabilities of the jet, while accomplishing our own training in preparation for agile combat environments,” said Lt. Col. Roderick James, 389th FS Commander. “We intend to execute more cross-country trips like this in the near future.”