August 10, 2012 (by SrA Melissa Harvey) - There's something to be said for goals - whether big or small, they motivate a person to keep going, to take one more step when quitting would be so much easier. Sometimes, it's hard to tell if all this hard work will lead to something worth the effort. For Col. Kurt "Huevos" Gallegos, 301st Operations Group Commander, it's led to reaching milestones that only come with hard work and time.
USAF F-16C block 30 #85-1484 from the 457th FS is being piloted by Col. Kurt J. Gallegos, 301st OG commander, to begin the flight where he will achieve the milestone goal of flying more than 4000 hours in an F-16 on August 8th, 2012. [USAF photo by SrA. Melissa Harvey]
Gallegos first flew an F-16 Fighting Falcon in July 1991, he said. It would take him the next 4 years to reach the goal of flying more than 1,000 hours in October 1995. He doubled that number in August of 2001, and then tripled it in December of 2006. Finally with a total of 22 years as an F-16 pilot, he hit 4,000 hours as a 457th Fighter Squadron Spad Wednesday, Aug. 8, flying #85-1484
, the plane that bears his name.
By reaching this milestone, he is part of a small group of pilots able to say they have achieved this goal.
"I am one of 36 pilots in the F-16 community world-wide who have reached this milestone,' he said. "It's very hard to accomplish on active duty, most pilots who have this much flying time in a major weapon system (F-16, F-15, A-10, etc.) have transferred to the Guard and Reserve."
Wingmen are essential to flying and on this important day, his was none other than 10th Air Force Commander, Brig. Gen. William B. Binger
who hit the 4,000 hour goal while flying with a 457th Fighter Squadron Spad, in Balad, Iraq in 2005 as the 332nd Air Expeditionary Flight Operations Groups commander.
"For the Reserve command, it's a testament to the amount of experience we have in the weapon systems that we fly," Binger said. " It takes an incredible amount of time and effort to build up that many hours when you think about flying the air plane at about an average of 1.3 to 1.5 hours per flight. You can do the math and figure out that it takes a long time. It takes most people a 20-plus-year career to amass that many hours. We are very proud of him. It's just a testament to the amount of experience that we have in the Air Force Reserve command."
Gallegos recognizes he hasn't arrived at this momentous occasion on his own. "Without Aircrew Flight Equipment, all the maintainers, crew chiefs, avionics, back shops, including the wing leadership...I could not have done any of this," he said. Included in this group is Tech. Sgt. Todd McMillen, 301st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-16 dedicated crew chief, who prepared Gallegos' jet to be flown for the 4,000th hour milestone.
During his 4,000 hours, approximately 167 days in the air, he has seen and been a part of things only that kind of time can give.
"I had the opportunity to fly the 5-millionth-flight hour for Lockheed Martin in the F-16 on Dec. 4, 1996 when I was the F-16 West Coast demonstration pilot stationed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah," he said. "I was also the first pilot to drop bombs in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001. I have been very lucky to be in the right place at the right time on very many occasions".
Even though he has experienced success, he already has a new goal in mind.
"To become a [wing] commander is what I'd like to do next and continue to fly the F-16," he said. "That would be the premier job for me! I would also say to log 5000 hours in the future as well, but that probably will be unattainable at this stage in my career."
After so many years of flying, Gallegos hasn't lost his passion for the F-16.
"I'm still flying and that's the best thing, I love every minute of it, It never gets boring or mundane, I am excited every day I show up to work," he said.