AF awards recognize pilot excellence

An instructor pilot and student pilot from the 37th Flying Training Squadron prepare for a flight Sept. 28, 2017, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Instructor pilots fly with the student pilots on almost every flight to provide immediate feedback and help with any grading and teaching the students may need. An IP can fly up to three times in one day, with each flight reaching almost three hours of total flight-time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

An instructor pilot and student pilot from the 37th Flying Training Squadron prepare for a flight Sept. 28, 2017, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Instructor pilots fly with the student pilots on almost every flight to provide immediate feedback and help with any grading and teaching the students may need. An IP can fly up to three times in one day, with each flight reaching almost three hours of total flight-time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Two T-38 Talons land during the turkey shoot event Oct. 26, 2017, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Two aircraft were graded and averaged together for the T-38 event because it was considered a formation flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Two T-38 Talons land during the turkey shoot event Oct. 26, 2017, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Two aircraft were graded and averaged together for the T-38 event because it was considered a formation flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Second Lt. Zach Morrow, 14th Student Squadron student pilot, receives his first assignment as an Air Force pilot at Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 18-03’s Assignment Night Dec. 1, 2017, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Morrow will fly a C-17 Globemaster III at Travis AFB, California. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

Second Lt. Zach Morrow, 14th Student Squadron student pilot, receives his first assignment as an Air Force pilot at Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 18-03’s Assignment Night Dec. 1, 2017, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Morrow will fly a C-17 Globemaster III at Travis AFB, California. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- With a continued focus on solving the pilot retention problem and maintaining air dominance, Air Force senior leaders look to celebrate the culture and flying expertise of their pilots.

“Airpower is a team sport – the ultimate competition – and I think it is imperative that we recognize the teams that accomplish the mission the best, doing it in a way that cares for their people, sustains the aircraft fleet for the long haul, and accomplishes this in a way that lifts teams to greater heights of production and quality of instruction,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick Doherty, 19th Air Force commander, during the first Flying Training Awards Ceremony.

Air, Education and Training Command recently hosted the event at Joint Base San-Antonio Randolph, Texas, to highlight aviation excellence. This recognition is one of many ways the Air Force is showcasing its pilots for their achievements and showing how invaluable they are in denying America’s enemies.

“These are Air Force fighter aircrew annual awards,” said Lt. Col. Langdon Root, fighter and bomber branch chief for combat Air Forces, absorption and retention line of efforts leads for the aircrew crisis task force. “There was no acknowledgement at the wing or above level. So we thought based off of other career fields where you do some acknowledgement at the Headquarters Air Force level; [we needed] those kind of awards [to] allow the Air Force to celebrate the kinetic capability that the fighter community brings.”

The Air Force is committed to a holistic strategy as an incentive to retain its skilled pilots. The strategy includes bonuses, recognition and reducing additional duties.

“Everybody wants a chance to be able to be recognized for winning that award at the squadron level, group level or wing level,” Root said. “People pay attention, people care. At the end of the day, it’s about acknowledging excellence in the areas of the Air Force that allow us to win wars.”