August 17, 2009 (by SSgt. Lindsey Maurice) - One Aviano Airman received some exciting and surprising news recently when he was told of his selection as the 2008 U.S. Air Forces in Europe Fighter Aviator of the Year.
Capt. Joshua Kubacz, 2008 USAFE Fighter Aviator of the Year poses in front of F-16C block 40 #89-2009 from the 510th FS on December 18th, 2007. [USAF photo by A1C. Ashley Wood]
Capt. Joshua Kubacz, 510th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot and chief of weapons and tactics, was informed by 31st Fighter Wing leadership of his achievement on Aug. 12, with the actual award to come later.
"Captain Kubacz stands out from a group of truly outstanding Airmen in the 510th Fighter Squadron," said Lt. Col. Gregory Sarakatsannis, 510th FS
commander. "His unique mixture of technical competence, polished leadership skills and unbridled enthusiasm inspires excellence in all of those who work with or around him. He is extremely deserving of this award and I am very happy to have him flying and teaching in the 510th."
Captain Kubacz said he was both surprised and humbled when he first heard the news.
"I was really caught off guard when I found out," said the 8-year Air Force veteran. "I didn't even know I was put up for the award. It's an incredible honor."
The captain, although humble, is no novice when it comes to recognition having garnered the 2008 Aviano Instructor Pilot of the Year award and two quarterly IP
awards in 2008.
While working as the flight commander of a 10-person shop, Captain Kubacz's flight members also garnered two annual and five quarterly awards.
"My flight members being recognized is something I'm very proud of," said the captain.
During his time at Aviano, the captain also earned the distinction of being the first F-16 pilot to employ the BDU-38 (a training bomb) for the first time in 15 years. The successful employment of the weapon re-validated a training asset vital to the 31st FW mission, according to 31st FW leadership.
The captain was also recognized for designing the first-ever electronic "bird board" software program that allows for detailed tracking for 25 aircraft, giving 44 pilots total situational awareness of each jet before a mission. The software was so well accepted in the aviation community, that four wings and seven squadrons within the Air Force have implemented it into their daily operations.
Captain Kubacz said that while he is appreciative of his USAFE
recognition, it would not have been possible without the support of his leadership, coworkers and family.
"I have to give credit to my leadership for trusting me with responsibilities and providing me opportunities to excel," he said. "I also have to credit my fellow 'Buzzards' whose teamwork creates an environment that breeds success. I want to thank my wife and family as well for their endless support. I could not have gotten this far without them."
Captain Kubacz graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2001, beginning pilot training almost immediately after graduation. After completing F-16 training, he spent a year and a half contributing to the defense of South Korea
out of Kunsan Air Base, before being reassigned to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. While at Cannon AFB
, he served in a multitude of duties culminating as the 27th Special Operations Wing flight safety chief. Following his move to Aviano Air Base in September 2007, Captain Kubacz earned his master's degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
The captain's combat experience includes more than 200 hours during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He holds approximately 1,450 flight hours in the F-16, T-38 and T-37.