August 1, 2022 (by 1st Lt Lindsey Heflin) - Lt. Col. Kevin "Mongo" Jens, 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron F-16 Test Director, achieved 4,000 hours in the F-16 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 8, 2022. Jens' military flight time totals close to 5,000 hours, which includes active duty combat time in the A-10 prior to his transition to the Air Force reserves.
Lt. Col. Kevin "Mongo" Jens, pilot assigned to the 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Eglin AFB, completes four thousand flight hours as an F-16 pilot at Nellis AFBa, July 8, 2022. Jens started in A-10s and flew in Desert Storm as a Lt. and flew his first F-16 in 1997. [USAF photo by A1C Josey Blades]
Jens graduated from Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training in 1987, earning his pilot wings and fulfilling a childhood dream he began pursuing after first envisioning himself in the cockpit at the age of five. He was initially assigned to the A-10, which he flew for four years accumulating 700 flying hours.
Jens has flown 107 combat sorties garnering over 360 combat hours in two different platforms, a feat that few pilots achieve in their Air Force careers. The first campaign he flew in was Operation Desert Storm, where he provided Close Air Support from the A-10 as a young Captain. Jens also served in Operations Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom as an F-16 pilot.
Between the Active Duty and Reserves, Jens has been flying for over 35 years. He has been with the 59th TES for 13 of those years. As the F-16 Test Director, Jens and his team work with engineers to modernize the airframe and test new equipment and software that will eventually be fielded to the Combat Air Force.
"Mongo has yielded an immense impact on the F-16 community by remaining operationally focused and delivering countless capabilities to the warfighter over the years," said Lt. Col. Nathan Malafa, 59th TES commander. "The CAF is more lethal and survivable because of him."
Having worked in a test squadron for more than a decade, Jens has the unique opportunity to closely follow the results of his own efforts. One example was the integration of the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System in the F-16, an innovative system built to reduce fatal crashes from pilots succumbing to G-induced Loss of Consciousness or spatial disorientation while performing high-speed fighter aircraft maneuvers. Jens was the first operational pilot to fly with Auto GCAS
back in 2010.
"It's cool to see things in the cockpit and know that you had a direct impact on getting it there," said Jens. "Knowing that what we are delivering has the potential to save lives and better equip the warfighter is why guys like me do this job. It's not about us, it's about the CAF."
Jens attributes his success attaining 4000 F-16 hours to luck, saying that at the end of the day he's just fortunate to have been able to fly as long as he has. Jens says that the longevity of his career has a direct correlation with his passion for the work.
"You need to enjoy it, and it has to be something you want to do," said Jens. "It's a lot of work, long hours, and a lot of TDYs. But if you enjoy the work you do, then it's easy."