June 2, 2008 (by Amn Sondra M. Wieseler) - You and your nemesis get into a brawl in a broom closet. It's pitch black in this closet and not only are you armed with a baseball bat, but you've also got night vision goggles.
Col. Jeff Harrigian, 49th FW commander, and Lt. Col. Mike Hernandez, 7th FS commander, fly a pair of F-22A Raptors over White Sands Missile Range, on the way to HollomanAFB, June 2nd, 2008. The jets are the first two Holloman-tailed F-22's to arrive on base. [USAF photo by SrA. Russell Scalf]
Through the goggles, you see your enemy flailing his arms in an attempt to get a hit in, but with no success; he has no idea where you are. Who wins the fight? It's obvious.
This is an analogy showcasing the capabilities of the United States Air Force's newest fighter jet verses enemy aircraft as portrayed by one of Holloman's own F-22A Raptor pilots, Lt. Col. Alexus Grynkewich.
As commander of the 49th Operations Support Squadron, one of his primary responsibilities is currently supporting and preparing for the arrival of Holloman's first F-22's.
Although he may have never dreamed he'd play such a big role in his Air Force career, the colonel new what he wanted to do at a young age.
When he was a junior in high school, the now commander decided what he wanted to do with his life with the influence of the Army helicopter pilot in charge of his junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC).
"He told me flying was great," said the colonel, who appears as youthful as he may have been at the time. "But don't do it in the Army, do it in the Air Force."
And so he did.
The First Flight
In 1995, the then first lieutenant graduated from Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance AFB
, Okla., and has been flying ever since. He trained as an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, and after years of flying at a number of bases, sent in his nomination package and was chosen to become one of the initial F-22 pilots.
"I like to joke that I stapled a $100 bill to my form before I sent it in, just to be safe," he said humorously.
Although becoming an F-22 pilot was an offer he couldn't refuse, Colonel Grykewich says he will always remember flying the F-16.
"Just like with relationships, where you never forget your first love, as a pilot you never forget your first aircraft."
The colonel trained on the F-22 at Nellis AFB, Nev., where he flew his first sortie. Since there is only a single seat in the aircraft, the closest thing to an instructor was the man flying in the F-22 beside him.
"My first thought when I took off of the ground was 'Boy, I hope I can land this thing," said Colonel Grynkewich with a grin.
"It turns out it is actually a very easy airplane to fly," he said. "I was really excited about it because we'd done academics beforehand, we'd done simulators and you're just kind of waiting to get your hands on the jet and go fly it."
F-16 vs. The Raptor
In the colonel's well-organized office, he sat upright in his chair, hands clasped, as he stated the easiest way to explain how he feels about the F-22 was to compare it to the F-16.
The biggest difference, he said, is stealth.
"Now we've created something that's stealthy but that is also maneuverable that can fly a lot faster and a lot higher," said Colonel Grynkewich. "All of a sudden no one can see me that well, and that gives me a huge advantage."
Another difference, he noted, is the super cruise capability of the F-22 that allows it to fly faster than the speed of sound without using after burners. This not only gives it speed, but saves on gasoline.
"So that gives you the ability to throw your weapons a lot further," said the colonel. "Just like if you're a javelin thrower in the Olympics. They always run as fast as they can to throw the javelin - same sort of thing in fighters. We run as fast as we can to throw our javelins which are missiles and bombs."
With the F-22's integrated avionics, the colonel finds that he has more time to be a tactician again rather than a sensor operator, he said.
"With the F-16, almost 80 percent of my task loading as a pilot was figuring out if my radar was looking in the right place, how my datalinks were doing, taking a look at my radar warning receiver and making sure no one had locked on to my aircraft and what not," said Colonel Grynkewich. "I'd have to mesh all of that information into my brain and fuse it together to figure out what was really going on in battle."
"In the F-22, all of that fusion is done by the jet so it kind of presents you an overall picture of what's going on and you don't have to worry about making your radar look in the right place," he added.
The aircraft also has the ability to fly about 10,000 feet higher than older fighters, he said, up to 60,000 feet.
"It's amazing," said the wide-eyed colonel. "The basic flying characteristics are fairly similar but there are really big differences."
Two squadrons, one fight
The commander of the recently reactivated 7th Fighter Squadron, Lt. Col. Mike Hernandez, and Colonel Grynkewich worked hand-in-hand in the preparation for the F-22's arrival.
"Our job [in the 7 FS
] is to receive the airplanes and get the pilots trained so we can be ready to go operational by November 2009," said Colonel Hernandez. "What the operations support squadron does is all the support things required to make the operations happen."
According to Colonel Grynkewich, those things include everything from making sure runways meet the F-22's needs, making sure the airspace is big enough for the F-22, making sure that intelligence is trained and able to support it's mission and that the weather guys know to check the weather at a higher altitudes.
The two commanders, who met at Nellis AFB while training on the F-22, work together on an almost daily basis, said Colonel Hernandez.
"I try to make his job as easy as possible so he can focus on getting his folks ready to deploy for combat and we take care of all the administrative stuff," said Colonel Grynkewich.
Colonel Grynkewich seems pleased with the work that his squadron has performed in preparation of the F-22, and it certainly shows.
"The work that the people in the OSS do is absolutely phenomenal," said the colonel. "I really feel like we're kind of the focal point and the enabler to make sure the fighter squadron is able to do its mission and become operationally ready by November of 2009."
Holloman received its first two F-22A Raptors at 2:49 p.m. Monday.
It is one of only four bases receiving the F-22A Raptor. Among them are: Langley Air Force Base, Va., Elmendorf AFB, Ala., and Hickam AFB, Hawaii.
"Holloman is really lucky to get the F-22," said Colonel Grynkewich. "We will be almost one-third of the Air Force's combat capability in Raptors here."
With the arrival of the fighter jet, Holloman stands once again as it always has in the past; ready to fight.
"The F-117A put Holloman on the forefront of national military policy," said the colonel. "And that isn't going to change."