June 4, 2009 (by Lt. Col. Peter Bilodeau) - Twelve of the Air Force's newest Viper pilots culminate nine months of demanding training and receive their graduation certificates June 6 at Luke Air Force Base.
Members of class 08-IBC seen in class photo on May 28th, 2009 are from left: 1st Lts. Jared Burris, John Difebo, Robert Hilby and Timothy Killham; Capts. William Brown and Aaron Weedman; 1st Lt. Jondavid Hertzel, Capt. Jeffrey Harding, 1st Lt. Tony Generous, Capt. Bill George and 1st Lts. Justin Cleveland and Alex Esson. [USAF photo by SrA. Tracie Forte]
Class 08-IBC from the 309th Fighter Squadron "Wild Ducks" will join the ranks of a select group of aviators fortunate enough to fly the F-16.
They did not achieve this goal on their own; it required the combined efforts of the Ducks instructors, academic instructors from the 56th Training Squadron, aircraft provided by the men and women of the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, and an airfield operated by the 56th Operations Support Squadron. In all, every squadron in every group played some role in helping these future warriors reach this milestone in support of the 56th Fighter Wing mission. Thank you Thunderbolts.
Class 08-IBC initially began training June 20, 2008. After spending a month in academics, they were finally ready to hit the flightline. Unfortunately, due to under manning, their class was suspended while the Ducks put through an instructor pilot upgrade course of nearly 20 aviators. Meanwhile, 08-IBC was farmed out to every fighter squadron on base to help wherever needed.
All of them were able to receive back seat rides on student sorties to get a jump on flying ops in the F-16. They also used their time to do extra simulators each week and keep in the books. Two months later, 08-IBC started day one of academics again. All of them seemed to think the tests were much easier the second time around.
While in the training squadron, they learned aircraft systems and emergency procedures. This academic knowledge was put to the test during numerous simulators, 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 take their first flight in the F-16.
Following the transition flying phase where they learned the basics of landing, advanced handling, and emergency procedures including engine out landings, the students moved into the air-to-air and air-to-ground phases.
Duck instructors put 08-IBC through the gauntlet, flying over 800 sorties during the duration of their course. The students quickly learned what would be expected of them as operational wingman. The culmination of their training was a large force exercise during which they were tasked with destroying targets while opposed by hostile air and ground forces.
This class is the first of the Ducks to go through the new syllabus which incorporates night systems and the LANTIRN
targeting pod. They are also the last class in the Ducks to fly the block 25
F-16, as the Ducks will be taking control of the 63rd FS
Graduation day signifies the end of initial training for 08-IBC, but not the end of their learning. Once they arrive at their first operational unit, they'll undergo further mission qualification training, normally lasting approximately 90 days. Like many who have gone before them, some of them will soon deploy to places like Afghanistan or Iraq and put their hard-won skills to the test; flying combat sorties over hostile territory. The entire 309th FS wish you all God Speed and Good Killing.