September 28, 2007 (by Lt. Col. Jeffrey Schroeder) - Today, the 308th Fighter Squadron graduates Class 07-EBG, adding thirteen new F-16 pilots to the U.S. Air Force.
The 308th FS graduated 13 pilots from the 07-EBG class. Graduating today from the 308th FS are 1st Lts. Brent Ellis, Jevon Yeretzian, Kevin Danaher, Garrett Dover, Capts. Matt Hepp, Mike Clapper, 1st Lt. Max Cover, Capt. Jesse Doyle, 1st Lts. Alex Reich, Dan Alix, Chris Vella, Capt. Mike Gosma and 1st Lt. Chris Stepanek.
Their graduation ceremony is a culmination of nine months of training in the world's greatest fighter. It's not only a major milestone in the lives of these young aviators, but also a milestone for Luke as well. Class 07-EBG is the last F-16 class to graduate this fiscal year, and essentially closes the book for Luke operations until the new fiscal year begins.
The class began training with a rigorous month of academics, simulators, and F-16 orientation before getting the opportunity to strap into the cockpit. This phase of training was administered by the 56th Training Squadron composed of a dedicated group of active-duty and contractor instructors. These instructors attempted to impart their years of wisdom to the students and get them ready for their first flight. After numerous academic tests, F-16 systems lectures and emergency procedures simulations, 07-EBG was ready to fly.
Flying in the 308th Fighter Squadron was the next phase. They learned the fundamentals of the F-16 by practicing take offs and landings, flying instruments and understanding the flying qualities of their new office. The first several of these flights were with an instructor in the rear seat before flying solo. The course then progressed to the tactical employment phase.
In this phase the course was divided into two sections consisting of air-to-air and air-to-ground employment. During air-to-air employment, the class learned 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.
Just when 07-EBG was feeling comfortable in this mission, the squadron led them into their next challenge -- putting bombs on target.
During air-to-ground employment, 07-EBG learned about bombs and fuses, 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 ordnance and see for themselves what air power brings to the fight.
This part of the course culminated with a large force employment exercise in which the 308th FS
met a simulated air tasking order and launched twelve F-16s as an integrated fighting force called Operation Swinging Sword.
Fittingly, it began on Sept. 11 and almost assuredly, our new F-16 pilots will soon be in real combat in several months time fighting the global war on terror.
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 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.