January 23, 2009 (by Lt. Col. Jeffrey Schroeder) - Today, the 308th Fighter Squadron graduates Class 08-GBG, adding eight new F-16 pilots to the Air Force. Their graduation ceremony is a culmination of nine long months of training in the world's greatest fighter.
Members of the 308th graduating class GBG-08 are from left: Capts. Eric Gorney, Tom Nelson, Tim Riley and Ryan Ley; 1st Lt. David Kroontje; Capt. Frank Beaudoin; and 1st Lts. Clayton Bailey and Tommy Werner photographed on November 21st, 2008. [USAF photo by Capt. Tom Nelson]
However, it is not only a major milestone for these young aviators on a personal level, but also a milestone for the Luke community as well.
Class 08-GBG is the first F-16 class that graduates after utilizing a new F-16 training syllabus; a training regimen that was years in the making and accurately reflects the skills new F-16 pilots need in today's environment of joint operations in the current wars.
Class 08-GBG began their journey with a rigorous month of academics, simulators, and F-16 orientation before even getting the opportunity to strap into the cockpit. This phase of training was administered by the 56th Training Squadron that is composed of a dedicated group of both active-duty and contractor instructors. These instructors attempted to impart their years of wisdom unto our newest students to ready them for their first flight. After numerous academic tests, F-16 systems lectures and emergency procedures simulations, 08-GBG was ready to fly.
Arriving in the 308th FS
to begin flying was an exciting time for 08-GBG. Initially the students learned the fundamentals of the F-16 by practicing how to take off and land the jet, fly instruments, and understand the flying qualities of their new office.
While their first several flights were with an instructor in the rear seat, the students soon had the opportunity to fly solo. After ensuring each student had the basics down of Air Force flying in the F-16, the course progressed into the tactical employment phase.
In this phase the course was divided into two sections consisting of both air-to-air and air-to-ground employment. During air-to-air employment, 08-GBG would learn the intricacies of the F-16 radar, as well as how to employ missiles and guns as weapons.
The students were first exposed to fighting another aircraft within visual range -- basic fighter maneuvers, but quickly progressed to multi-threat scenarios in the beyond-visual-range environment, both day and night. Just when 08-GBG was feeling comfortable in this mission, the squadron led them into their next challenge -- putting bombs on target.
During air-to-ground employment, 08-GBG learned about bombs and fuzes, attack options, and threat reactions. The students learned to employ simulated and real ordnance from both medium and low altitude. Each student got the opportunity to drop live bombs and see for themselves what air power brings to the fight. Additionally, with the new syllabus flow, 08-GBG incorporated targeting pod sensors and night vision goggle training into their sorties. The students trained like they will fight, and almost assuredly these new F-16 pilots will be in combat shortly.
Certainly the intense training these fledging fighter pilots received and endured would not be possible without the utmost support of the entire base. Every functional area of Luke Air Force Base has a part in the graduation of the Air Force's newest F-16 pilots and should be proud.
Especially notable was the dedicated support of our maintenance partners, the 308th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, and their incredible efforts in sustaining student training sorties. Once again Team Thunderbolt has risen to the challenge and excelled.