January 24, 2008 (by Lt. Col. Pablo Sanchez) - On Saturday, 13 of the Combat Air Forces newest Viper pilots at Luke AFB, Arizona, will close six months of grueling training and receive their graduation certificates.
The 62nd FS graduate 13 pilots Saturday from the 07-HBC class. From the left:1st Lts. Jesse Breau, Colin Marshall, Nick Haussler, Jon Hullsiek, Curt Voltz, Chris Lowe; Capt. Mike Willhide, 1st Lts. Brad Nadolny, Ryan Roth, Austin Brown, Corey Florendo; Capt. Brett Swiger and 1st Lt. Jeff Osborne. [USAF photo]
Class 07-HBC from the 62nd Fighter Squadron "Spikes" will join the ranks of a select group of aviators fortunate enough to fly the F-16.
The Spikes did not graduate these aviators alone. Graduation requires academic instructors from the 56th Training Squadron, aircraft provided by the men and women of the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit and the 56th Maintenance Group, operated on and over an airfield run by the 56th Operations Support Squadron, and support provided by the 56th Mission Support Group.
Class 07-HBC began training on June 20. They spent more than a month in intense ground academics learning aircraft systems and emergency procedures. This academic knowledge was quickly put to the test in numerous simulations where the students demonstrated the ability to apply their classroom knowledge to realistic emergency situations. Once they passed this initial hurdle, they were ready to step into the real jet and take their first flight in the F-16.
Spike instructors put 07-HBC through the gauntlet, flying more than 620 sorties during the duration of their course. The students quickly learned what would be expected of them as operational fighter pilots. Each pilot had only four flights to master handling the F-16, because the fifth was their first solo in the Viper. Following this transition flying phase, the students moved into the air-to-air and air-to-ground phases. First they learned to dogfight, refuel while airborne and employ tactically in formations against enemy air threats. Then they shifted to learning the fundamental mission of the Viper -- putting bombs on target. From gun employment, to delivery of precision weapons to close air support, 07-HBC learned how to prosecute those unlucky enough to be on the ground and within their sights. The culmination of their training was several large force exercises during which they were tasked with destroying targets while being opposed by hostile air and ground forces, truly demonstrating the capabilities of pairing skilled pilots with such glorious weapon systems.
Graduation day signifies the end of initial training for 07- HBC, but not the end of their learning. The class will report to the 310th Fighter Squadron where they will receive follow on training on night vision goggles, laser-guided bombs, targeting pod operations and other specialized F-16 missions. Once they arrive at their first operational unit, they will undergo further mission qualification training lasting up to 90 days.
Like those who have gone before them, this class will soon find themselves in places like Afghanistan or Iraq. Their hard won skills will soon be put to the test in combat sorties over hostile territory in defense of our nation and its allies.