A little recognition goes a long way

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Roger Johnson
  • 32nd Flying Training Squadron
If you read my last article, you may recall I discussed my opinion on loyalty and commitment to our military and our nation. In a nut shell, my feelings are, if you give one day or 30 years, and gave 100 percent during that time fulfilling whatever service commitment you incurred, you are a great American and your nation and I thank you for your loyalty and commitment.
Today I'm taking this opportunity to talk on a similar subject but with a little more directness towards the people involved ... the men and women of the 32nd Flying Training Squadron.
How many times driving on base have you seen recognition on the marquee for the base's instructor pilots? Most of the time you'll see services' messages, distinguished visitor welcomes, deployer returns and departures, but nothing or very little on what the instructor pilots and students are doing in support of the nation's military. You probably recall seeing a student class welcome or the class congratulations on graduation, but probably nothing directly associated with the instructor pilot population.
So as the one assigned "article duties" this week, and as the T-1 guy, I thought I'd provide a look into a common week for a T-1 instructor pilot
Monday through Friday for the IP doesn't really make a difference; in fact the week is often referred to as "ground hog's day" because they're doing basically the same thing day-in and day-out. Their typical work day starts anytime from about 4:30 a.m. into late morning depending on the phase of training and what take off times their flight was allocated. If they have the newest T-1 students, they will be in around 4:30 or 5 a.m. daily. They'll start with a short meeting in the flight commander's office prior to going into the flight room for the "formal report" with the students. It's now going on about 5:30 a.m. and the first crews of the day are starting their two-hour-prior-to-takeoff mission briefings for the day's sortie. After going over the day's planned in-flight activities and giving pre-mission instruction on student weak areas, the crew of three will start to head out to the aircraft. It's now about 6:30 a.m. Once the crew has accomplished all the required checks, the IP leads these two aspiring pilots into the great blue yonder at approximately 7:30 a.m. for about three and a half hours of non-stop activity.
Now to get some sort of appreciation for this endeavor, imagine yourself sticking a 16-year-old driver in a car for the first time in Austin, Texas, and taking them down to San Antonio, drive around the city and then back to Austin. However, not only are you talking and instructing within the aircraft, you must also talk to controllers outside, and oh yes this "car" can go in any direction ... up, down, left, right and sometimes all at the same time! The traffic can get very congested in the air just as it does in city driving.
It's now going on 11:30 a.m. as our crew is touching down back home at Vance Air Force Base. Depending on how the aircraft performed, they may or may not need to stop by maintenance to discuss any problems they encountered with the aircraft on the day's sortie. In any event, after post-flight activities are completed they're getting back in the squadron around noon. It's now time to pull out your sack lunch and sit down for the mission debrief. The debrief will consist of going over the good, the bad and the ugly of everything accomplished during mission planning, pre-brief, preflight, the flight and post-flight ... everything. Once the mission is thoroughly covered, the IP will then sit with the students to answer questions and verbally quiz the students' knowledge on a multitude of topics for which the students are responsible for in any given category of training. The time is now approaching 2 p.m. as the IP inputs the students' grades into the "system." As these instructors enter into their tenth hour of work with little to no break, it's now time to do their assigned duties within the flight or squadron. As 4:15 p.m. quickly rolls around, the IP is now required by regulation to start packing up to leave the squadron no later than 4:30 p.m., so they can have the mandatory 12 hours off to show up at 4:30 a.m. to do it again the next day. This scenario plays out four to five times a week for each of the "line" work horse instructor pilots of the 32nd. Oh and if weather causes crews not to be able to fly during the week, these same IPs are flying on the weekends and holidays to make up for the lost time.
The fact that the training they provide is of the finest quality, and is done in a safe manner, is a true testament to the professionalism and commitment of each and every instructor pilot. I won't even go into when these professionals are accomplishing their required physical training and other appointments, and if you look around the local community there is always someone or a group from the 32nd volunteering to help at Leonardo's, Habitat for Humanity and a host of many other very worthwhile causes. In my 18-plus years in the Air Force, I have not seen a group that works so hard and is as committed to "service before self" than this group working with me in the 32nd. I thank each and every one of you, and your nation thanks you for a job well done every day!
So, if while walking around Vance AFB or downtown and you see one of these professionals (from any of the flying squadrons and operations support squadron) go ahead and give them a well-deserved thanks. Because of them we will remain the world's greatest air power force the world has ever seen.