December 16, 2009 (by Maj. Lindsay Logsdon) - The 178th Fighter Wing, Springfield, Ohio, graduated its final American F-16 Fighting Falcon Basic Course class Dec. 12 at a formal banquet at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza.
USAF F-16C block 30 #86-0262 from the 162nd FS is parked on the tarmac in front of the main maintenance hangar of the 178th FW. [Photo by Jake Melampy
Capt. Christopher Behrens was recognized with the distinguished graduate award. Six of the graduates will go on to assignments in the active-duty Air Force, and one will fly with the 132nd Fighter Wing, Iowa Air National Guard.
"As with all of the fighter pilots we have sent to the Combat Air Forces from the 178th Fighter Wing, we are extremely proud of this graduating class in their completion of this stage of training," said Col. Mike Roberts, the 178 FW commander.
The Basic Course, or B-course, is for students who have never flown a fighter aircraft, but are graduates of Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training. Students are inducted into an eight-and-half month rigorous training regimen, including academics, simulators and flying training. This graduating class began training March 30.
The 178 FW training mission began September 2000 and has graduated 77 pilots through the B-course and a total of 350 pilots. The total number includes both graduates of the transition course, which is for experienced fighter pilots transitioning to fly the F-16 and training for pilots upgrading to operational or formal training instructor pilot status.
Lt. Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the C.I.A. associate director for military affairs, was the guest speaker at the banquet. The general began by reminding the new fighter pilots of the rigors of the duty they have been trained for and he also urged them to keep an eye on the milestones that lie ahead of them.
"We're very grateful and honored to have General Welsh attend our last American B-Course graduation as the guest speaker," said Col. Roberts. "General Welsh is one of the finest motivational speakers I've had the opportunity to hear, and he sent these young fighter pilots on the road in style. Of significant note is the fact that General Welsh as the next U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander will soon be the boss for three of the graduates headed to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and Aviano Air Base, Italy
The American F-16 training program will no longer continue at Springfield ANG
base as the mission was ended under the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission. The 178 FW was one of three formal training units for the F-16. The Springfield aircraft will be distributed to ANG units across the country.
"We'll especially remember these guys; they're the end of an era for the 178th Fighter Wing in the training of American pilots," said Col. Roberts.
"However, we won't get too sentimental as we look forward and move into new missions to replace our current American jets."