January 13, 2020 (by Amn Autumn Vogt) - Temporary deployments are an important part of being in the active-duty military. They provide an opportunity for Airmen to hone in on skills and operate in a location that they are unfamiliar with, much like a deployment.
USAF F-16C block 42 #88-0548 from the 311th FS departs for Key West on January 11th, 2020 from Holloman AFB. The 311th team departed for Key West to train basic course pilots in Dissimilar Air Combat Training. [USAF photo by A1C. Autumn Vogt]
The 311th Fighter Squadron is prepared for a temporary deployment to Key West, Florida, to provide basic course pilots dissimilar air combat training. However, training in a new environment area provides a challenge to the entire aircrew package, as much as the pilots.
Airmen from the logistics readiness, operations security, security forces, aircraft maintenance and aviation resource management squadrons are also supporting this training.
"This is similar to a deployment in a sense that we have to go from point A to point B," said Capt. Patrick Nolan, 311th Fighter Squadron Key West project officer. "When we get to point B we have to stand up operations, fly our aircraft and do the mission. If we were going outside of the U.S., we would be doing a very similar thing – figuring out where we are going, how we are going to get all of the people, cargo and aircraft there, and once we get there, how we are going to operate to accomplish our mission."
There were many hurdles in planning this trip. The project officers had to find a location that could support around 180 Airmen and 16 F-16s at a location with dissimilar fighter jets, along with other requirements.
Choosing Key West allowed the 311th to practice working in a joint environment as well.
"We will be flying with the Air National Guard, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy," said Nolan. "We're taking (the B-course students) out of their comfort zone. When we take them to a Navy base, not only is it structurally different, but the Navy has different ways of communicating, training and describing dog fighting or air-to-air maneuvers. It adds to the student's plate, it is challenging but it's a really good learning experience."
Students especially look forward to the opportunity to train in a mock-deployment setting and bond with fellow Airmen in their squadron. While temporary deployments are important for training, Airmen look forward to challenging themselves through new experiences.
"I think being able to do dissimilar air combat training with different aircraft and getting to bond with the squadron while simulating being deployed together will be awesome," said 1st Lt. Eric Holm, 311th Fighter Squadron basic course student. "Flying and getting used to a new area (will be the hardest part)."