Vance FAIP 'slingshots' into the Strike Eagle cockpit a year early

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kathy Duran
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – 1st Lt. Adrienne DeBauche, a 25th Flying Training Squadron first assignment instructor pilot at Vance Air Force Base earned a slot in the Slingshot program this year.

DeBauche, a T-38C Talon instructor pilot, recently found out she got her number one aircraft of choice a year earlier -- the F-15E Strike Eagle.

“I was a brand new FAIP. I had just gotten back from pilot instructor training and all of a sudden there was news that Capt. Ashley Leonard, a FAIP, dropped an F-35 earlier than expected. That is pretty much when I learned what Slingshot was,” said DeBauche. 

Slingshot is a 19th Air Force program which started in 2021. It provides one FAIP from each of the four undergraduate pilot training bases an opportunity to leave Air Education and Training Command early. They receive an assignment at the two-year mark instead of the three-year mark, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Smith, the 71st Operations Group deputy commander. 

Each of the UPT bases pick one high-performing FAIP who demonstrates the potential to be a candidate for the Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The extra year gives the FAIP time, once gained by Air Combat Command, to complete an upgrade to instructor with enough time to be competitive for the weapons school, said Smith. 

The Slingshot program is based on commander recommendation. The selected candidate tends to be an instructor who is doing well not only as a pilot but also as an instructor, said Smith. 

“Lieutenant DeBauche has demonstrated multiple times that she is an outstanding aviator, officer and instructor,” said Smith. “She’s constantly rated highly by the students. She demonstrates her own flying capability on a daily basis,” said Smith. 

Although the focus in the Slingshot program is for fighter aircraft assignments, Air Force Special Operations Command had one FAIP Slingshot this year from AETC. It is possible one of Team Vance’s T-1A Jayhawk FAIPs may get picked up in the future, said Smith.

“There’s definitely some hard work involved, but I think I'm very lucky” said DeBauche. “I never expected it and I still can’t believe I was selected.”