September 7, 2012 (by Lt. Col. Christopher Colcord) - The U.S. Air Force's newest Viper pilots will culminate nine months of demanding training today and receive their graduation certificates.
The 308th FS graduates 18 pilots today from Class 12-AGB. From left: Capts. Jessa Charron, Justin Stimets and Sean Corrigan; 1st Lts. Kyle Davis, Matt Martenson, David Leedom, Wes Spurling, Sean Churchill and Tim Six; Capt. Patrick Stewart; 1st Lt. Bryan Mussler; Capt. Josh Kitchen; 1st Lts. Houston Pye, Phillip Wilson and Michelle Hamland; Capt. Paul Fulkerson; and 1st Lts. Evan Farren and Roy Poor.
Class 12-ABG from the 308th Fighter Squadron Emerald Knights 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 47 Emerald Knight instructors, academic instructors from the 56th Training Squadron, flying aircraft provided by the 205 men and women of the 308th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, on and over an airfield operated by the 56th Operations Support Squadron.
Class 12-ABG began training on Nov. 29, 2011. They spent more than a month in academics learning 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 strap into the real thing and 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, the students moved into the air-to-air and air-to-ground phases. "Emerald Knight" instructors put 12-ABG through the gauntlet, flying more than 1,200 sorties during the duration of their course. The students quickly learned what would be expected of them as operational wingmen.
The culmination of their training was Operation Begin Compliance, a large-force exercise during which they were tasked with destroying targets while opposed by hostile air and ground forces.
Graduation day signifies the end of initial training for 12-ABG, but not the end of their learning. Following graduation, most of the class will report to Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses academics here at Luke Air Force Base, which lasts for 30 days. Once they arrive at their first operational unit, they'll undergo further mission qualification training, lasting approximately 90 days.
Like many who have gone before them, some of them will soon deploy to places like Afghanistan and put their hard-won skills to the test; flying combat sorties over hostile territory.