125 days in the sky

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jonathan Bass
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Over the last 18 years, the current 79th Fighter Squadron commander has spent 125 days flying in the cockpit of an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Lt. Col. Raymond Millero Jr., flew his 3,000th hour in the seat of his fighter jet here during February.

The Hadley, Pa., native is the 260th pilot from around the globe to achieve this many hours in the history of the F-16.

"When put into the context of 125 days it seems unreal that I spent so much time in the cockpit," said Millero. "I've had the opportunity to fly with 11 different active duty squadrons and five Air National Guard squadrons throughout my career."

In more than 19 years of service Millero has flown three different models of the F-16, Blocks 30, 40 and 50.

The main difference between the three models of the aircraft is the mission set. The Block 50 model focuses on the suppression of enemy air defenses, which is the mission set of the 20th Fighter Wing. These F-16s facilitate an air-to-ground campaign; they target and destroy enemy surface-to-air missile systems.

Flying the different models gave him a wide variety of skills and an excellent grip on the aircraft's abilities and tactics, said Millero.

Flying more than 611 combat hours in Iraq and Afghanistan, those abilities directed his flight path.

Millero flew tours in Operation Southern Watch, as well as tours in Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom.

"His extensive experience gives him a deep knowledge base that he can call upon when things aren't going exactly right and that's what separates the great pilots from the good pilots," said Lt. Col. Andrew Caggiano, 79th FS director of operations.

Hard work, dedication and the application of knowledge gained through life experience is what brought Millero to this point in his career, he said.

Millero has flown with his father's dog tags with him on more than 1,800 sorties in the F-16, using the opportunity to remind himself of his father's love.

"My father always encouraged me throughout my life and has been a great inspiration to me," said Millero. "I like to honor his service and what he sacrificed to allow me the opportunities I've had. Flying with his dog tags reminds me of his sacrifice and provides a reminder to me of the reason I am where I am today."

With 3,000 hours of experience in the cockpit, Millero has seen almost every possible scenario and can turn bad situations into good ones, thus making him and every pilot he leads both safer and more lethal in combat, said Caggiano.

"Achieving 3,000 hours is a significant personal and professional accomplishment for a fighter pilot," said Col. Paul Murray, 20th Operations Group commander. "But beyond the personal aspects, this milestone demonstrates the capability of our Air Force to maintain aircraft and personnel at a high level of readiness and ultimately support combat operations around the world."

Millero still considers himself lucky to be flying the F-16 after so many years and takes the most satisfaction out of instructing pilots and teaching them the necessary skills to employ the F-16.

"I believe it is necessary for the older generation to pass along the lessons learned from their experiences in order to develop the next generation," said Millero. "By growing the next generation of fighter pilots, we ensure they are ready when the nation calls us for combat operations, anytime, anywhere."

Flying an aircraft he loves and training the next Air Force fighter pilots keeps Millero in the sky, continuing to fly, fight and win.