FAIPapalooza -- mixing mentorship with fun

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VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- First Assignment Instructor Pilots, or FAIPs, are converging on Vance Air Force Base Aug. 12-14 to attend FAIPapalooza 2016.

“FAIPapalooza is mentoring, professional development… and lots of fun,” said Lt. Col. Deirdre Gurry, 71st Flying Training Wing chief of Safety and the mentor for this year’s gathering.

“We are bringing together current FAIPs from the pilot training bases and former, or ‘old-school’ FAIPs,” said Gurry, whose flying career began as a FAIP at Columbus AFB, Mississippi.

“Those of us who have been there, done that and gone on with successful careers can answer the current FAIPs’ questions and give career guidance,” she said.

“All FAIPs from the pilot-training bases and everywhere else in the continental United States are invited,” Gurry said. “We even invited Gen. (Mark) Welsh and Gen. (David) Goldfein, but they haven’t responded yet,” she said with a smile. Both generals were first assignment instructor pilots.

Goldfein is the current Air Force chief of staff. Welsh is the previous chief of staff, now retired.

“FAIPapalooza is an important opportunity for the young pilots. They see their peers departing after graduation with a clear vision of their future,” said Gurry, “but when you’re a FAIP, you are here for three years before being assigned a primary weapon system aircraft.

FAIPapalooza gives current FAIPs a chance to see what is possible, how to be competitive for promotions and prepare for career progression,” Gurry said.

The first night of FAIPapalooza will kick off with be an ice-breaker and social event.

Saturday’s schedule includes community partnership tours and activities. The evening will feature a “career brief” dinner at the Vance Club.

“I’ll introduce all the old-school FAIPs up on the stage,” said Gurry. “I’ll read a bit of where they started, where they went and what they are doing now. Then the current FAIPs can talk with them face-to-face and get some real mentoring.”

F-15s from Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon; a C-17 from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and an KC-10 from Travis AFB, California; are scheduled to bring in some old-school FAIPs for FAIPapalooza 2016. Although operations tempo might change things at the last minute.

“We are hoping to have a UH-1 helicopter coming from Fort Rucker, Alabama, with two FAIPs onboard. Not many folks realize we have FAIPs there,” Gurry said.

The final event for FAIPapalooza is a panel presentation by senior leaders with open discussions and opportunities for current FAIPs to get good information on professional development, the importance of in-residence professional education, and anything else they want to know, said Gurry.

When the last visitor has departed Sunday, and the FAIP flag – complete with skull and crossbones – is lowered from its staff, Gurry hopes the current FAIPs have a better idea of where their careers are going, and they had some fun.

Better yet – she hopes they are looking forward to the next gathering of the FAIP Mafia.

For more information on FAIPapalooza 2016, go to www.faipapalooza.com.