Acting Undersecretary visits Vance to observe COVID-19 impact on pilot training, pride in mission, innovation

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  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Acting Undersecretary of the Air Force Shon Manasco visited Vance Air Force Base Wednesday to observe pilot training operations here. Manasco visited Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, and Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, last week.

Visiting Vance gave the undersecretary a first-hand look at how the pilot training pipeline has been impacted by COVID-19, and how operations have continued through innovation and dedication to the mission.

“Pilot production is critical to our nation’s defense,” Manasco said. “Vance’s drive to deliver those pilots has never been more important, nor more evident, than today.”

During the trip, Manasco and his team observed all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Defense social distancing guidelines to protect their health and that of those around them.

Manasco was accompanied at Vance by Lt. Gen. Warren Berry, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, Headquarters U.S. Air Force; and Maj. Gen. Russell Mack, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, and former 71st Flying Training Wing commander.

During their visit to Vance, Manasco and the generals met with Vance’s Public Health team and visited the Vance Spark Cell. They reviewed the N-95 mask sanitizer the team developed and deployed for utilization, preserving critical resources and potentially saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in the future.

“I’ve been so proud of the way Team Vance has pulled together,” said Col. Corey Simmons, 71st FTW commander. “This team figured out the delicate balance of having pilots, cops and maintainers in place to execute the physical mission, while ensuring at-risk personnel or those who can work from home, did so. Because of the entire enterprise’s willingness to think outside the box, we’ve been successful in continuing our mission.”

The team then received a briefing on Vance’s innovation flight which is part of Air Education and Training Command’s ongoing effort to streamline pilot training by utilizing modern tools and instruction techniques, to include virtual reality simulators.

“Every great invention was born by constraint,” Manasco said. “Today I saw Airmen who are encouraged to challenge conventional wisdom and have gone on to create new and unique solutions because they understand we have a mission to do.

“It didn’t take a global pandemic for Vance Air Force Base to dive into innovation,” said Manasco. “The culture of innovation and pride at this base was evident the moment I stepped off the plane.”