August 18, 2010 (by SrA Mac Coleman-Foster) - In the fast-paced world of supersonic jet fighters, 4,000 hours is a very, very long time.
Lt. Col. Douglas Schaare, 55th EFS, poses for a photo before going out on a mission the would mark his 4,000 hours of flight in his career on August 1st, 2010, Balad AB. Colonel Schaare is a native of Orlando, Fla., and deployed from Shaw AFB. [USAF photo by SrA. Matt Coleman-Foster]
But for Lt. Col. Douglas Schaare
, assigned to the 55th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, Joint Base Balad, Iraq
, logging his 4,000th flight hour in the F-16 Fighting Falcon over Iraq was a joy.
"I love the Viper. Love every minute I get to fly it," said Colonel Schaare. "The jet just keeps getting better, more capable with each upgrade."
Colonel Schaare reached his 4,000th hour while flying a close-air support sortie in support of ground forces, Aug. 1, 2010, while assigned to the 55 EFS, 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group.
"Lt. Col. Schaare's milestone achievement of 4,000 Viper hours shows his commitment to the fighter community. He still enjoys it more than anyone else, which motivates the rest of the squadron to follow his example." said Capt. Eric Gorney, 332nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron operations officer and fellow 55 EFS pilot.
"Colonel Schaare's experience in the F-16 is invaluable to the squadron. His advanced age allows him to provide unique explanations of tactics. His personal leadership and dedication to diet and fitness truly set him apart at every level."
Colonel Schaares is an Orlando, Fla., native and a 1988 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. This is his second deployment to Balad.
"I take the flying here seriously," said Colonel Schaare. "There are a lot of people outside the wire that may need our help, and we are here to provide firepower at a moment's notice."
Even though there is only one seat in his F-16, Colonel Schaares attributes his accomplishment to teamwork.
"It's great working with our maintainers; they are the best. Why do you think I have 4,000 hours in the Viper? I couldn't have done it without the professionals that maintain such a complex airplane," he said.
David M. Hill, spokesman for Lockheed Martin Corporation, said Colonel Schaare is only the 34th F-16 pilot to reach the 4,000 hour milestone. Of the others to do so, three have been deployed to Balad: Lt. Col. Gary M. Middlebrooks
, Col. Robert McCutchen
, and Col. David A. Lujan
Despite the rarity of the 4,000-hour milestone, the colonel remains philosophical.
"I never thought it would happen," said Colonel Schaare. "I feel lucky that my career path has kept me flying the Viper this long. Divine intervention? I wouldn't change a thing."