June 3, 2008 (by SrA Anthony Nelson Jr) - The F-22 Raptor is the Air Force's newest fighter aircraft and with the arrival of the fighter here, Holloman is gearing up for yet another big event.
Flight line personnel wait for an F-22 to perform shutdown checks on Holloman AFB, June 2nd, 2008. This is one of the first F-22s assigned to Holloman.
"It's a whole new mindset, a whole new approach to teaching and training when it comes to the Air Force's newest aircraft the F-22 Raptor," said Field Training Detachment Instructor Staff Sgt. Aaron Blackwell.
Instructors at Holloman will not only teach on the F-22, but also different course's outside of their current career fields. A few of those programs are Integrated Maintenance Information System (IMIS), and the F-22 Common Maintenance Tasks (Familiarization Course).
"Being an F-22 instructor is one of those challenging circumstances that comes with a new fighter aircraft," said Staff Sgt. Albert Fraelich, FTD instructor.
So why become an F-22 Instructor?
Career advancement, controlled environment, no deployments or temporary duty assignments, and teaching experience are the reasons why Sergeant Fraelich said he became an instructor.
He said impacting the Airman in the classroom, so they can make an impact on the flightline, is the central focus for him and his fellow instructors.
"Instructors at Holloman are excited about the new airframe," said Sergeant Blackwell. "At Holloman we have a unique blend of instructors; there are former F-117A instructors and prior flight line personnel."
"Being an F-22 Instructor has amazing incentives, it allows you the opportunity to teach and instruct, which is a great opportunity for me," said Staff Sgt. David Rafter, FTD instructor who is pursing a teaching career after the Air Force.
Requirements to be an F-22 instructor are; minimum rank of staff sergeant, or line number for staff sergeant, applicant must be at least one year away from Community College of the Air Force degree, have a minimum of one year time on station and be interviewed by the Detachment 10 chief.
However switching over from the F-117 to the new F-22 can create a few challenges.
"New airframe, and limited hands on knowledge are just a few of the challenges that stand in front of the instructors and students," said Staff Sgt. James Gonzales, FTD instructor. Sergeant Gonzales has airframe experience with three different airframes; the KC-135 recon model V,W,U, F-117A, and soon to be the F-22.
According to Sergeant Rafter, a few other challenges that have arisen are switching from metallic tools to non-metallic and breaking old habits [maintenance practices].
"Students at Holloman are use to the operating system of the F-117A, not the newer system that comes along with the F-22," he said.
The F-22 is 5th generation stealth, has similar attributes of the F-117A Nighthawk and is capable of functioning as a "mini-Airborne Warning and Control System."
With the F-22s similarities to some of the airframes currently in the Air Force fleet, it allows other airframe specialists a common ground or basis to start on.
The arrival of the F-22s to Holloman will not only impact the local community and base as far as numbers and personnel, but it will impact the instructors as well.
"Preparing the maintenance and operations group to meet mission requirements is going to be a demanding goal, but it's achievable," said Sergeant Blackwell.
Sergeant Gonzalez said getting the aircraft and Airmen ready for combat contingences and mission requirements will be a challenge but it's something they are looking forward to.
Looking for knowledge and expertise on a new airframe can be difficult but according to Sergeant Rafter a great opportunity for the instructors to excel in their teaching.
"We are looked at as the standard, if we don't keep up with information and knowledge, then we fail the Airman, wing and Air Force."