February 28, 2010 (by MSgt. Carlos J. Claudio) - Maj. Michael D. "BOK" Schaner, 149th Fighter Squadron Weapons Officer, acting 27th Fighter Squadron Weapons Officer and F-22 Raptor pilot, was selected as the F-22 Outstanding Graduate for the elite United States Air Force Weapons School.
Maj. Michael 'BOK' Schaner, 192nd FW F-22 pilot with the Virginia ANG, steps away from an F-22 from the 94th FS at Langley AFB. Schaner was selected as the F-22 Outstanding Graduate for the elite USAF Weapons School, Nellis AFB. [USAF photo by MSgt. Carlos J. Claudio]
Not only did Maj. Schaner win the top honor, he was also the first Air National Guard pilot selected to attend the F-22 program. Lt. Col. David R. Nardi, Virginia ANG
, 149th FS
commander, said there was an excellent reason why the major was the best selection for attending weapons school.
"He was unanimously selected by the Air Force as the first choice for the Weapons Instructor Course across the community because he is one of the most highly experienced Raptor pilots, with great depth of experience in both the operations and the test communities," the commander explained. "He is one of the very best pilots and instructors in the F-22 and in the Air Force total force".
Class 09 Bravo Instructor Course, which ran from July 9 through December 13, 2009 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nv., was designed by Maj. Micah "Zeus" Fesler to take top instructor pilots to new zeniths using the latest technology and instructor guidance available.
Maj. Schaner, who compared what he learned at this school to a graduate level course on "projecting air power in a time of need," said he is not sure why he was chosen as the outstanding pilot. What he humbly vouched for was his performance uniformity.
"If there's one thing about me, it is that I just try to be consistent and adhere to the basics... It's not so much that I feel that I am top graduate by any means," BOK explained. "It's just a matter of trying to strive personally to do the best job that I can."
To attend Weapons School, Maj. Schaner and others' information packages, similar to promotion board packages Air Force-wide, are submitted then reviewed by a selection board at Randolph AFB
, Texas. Candidates are "racked and stacked" prior to selection. The board looks for pilots that return to their units "humble, credible and approachable," to teach new pilots and work to integrate what they learned into their respective units.
The class was made up of four F-22 pilots. They flew over 27 actual flights, all with Dissimilar Air Combat Training assets and engaged F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s. Fighting dissimilar assets provides much more realistic training, Maj. Schaner made clear.
"Not only did we fight dissimilar, but we fought outnumbered; in most cases by a ratio of 4-to-1, adversary to F-22," the Major explained. "This is the only place in the world where you get that specific F-22 training. Not even flag exercises can provide such training."
In addition to live flying, Maj. Schaner also traveled twice to Marietta, Ga., for additional training using F-22 Air Combat Simulators. High fidelity simulators provide the next best thing to actual flying without leaving the ground. "In the simulator we can get a lot of repetitions before we do the real thing in the air," Schaner explained.
Teamwork is a huge part of the class, said Schaner. Four F-22 pilots shared information and worked with four F-15C pilots. "It was great having another student in the flight to bounce ideas off and help with the mission planning," he explained.
Col. Mark McCauley, 192D Fighter Wing Commander stated, "We are extremely fortunate to have BOK in the 192D and we're very proud of him. He'll be the continuity here at Langley which will maintain and improve our capability to effectively employ the Raptor into the future."
"BOK exhibits all the core values expected of a weapons school graduate," the commander continued. "That's why he graduated at the top of his class and it's a vital part of why the 192d is such an awesome team."
Maj. Schaner, a Michigan native, parallels attending Weapons School to an athlete breaking out of a set exercise routine in order to achieve a higher performance level. He acknowledges that taking one's performance to the next level is always hard but worth the difficulty and challenges. "I always wanted to fly fighters and go to weapons school, so I knew if I could put everything I have into it, it would get me out of that plateau and get to another notch," he said. "I think if you do that with everything in your life, eventually you continue to get better."
Lt. Col. Nardi called the award a milestone and said it shows how the ANG plays a significant role in total force.
"It demonstrates how the Guard is integrated into the leading edge and what it brings to the fight today," he explained. "It shows the tremendous combat capabilities that our unit and the ANG provide to our nation."