340th FTG commander meets the Firebirds

340th FTG commander meets the Firebirds

Col. Allen Duckworth, 340th Flying Training Group commander, speaks to Airmen with the 43rd Flying Training Squadron during an all call June 26, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Duckworth recently took command of the 340th FTG and is visiting his squadrons in order to better understand their different cultures and contributions to the training of pilots across the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Melissa Doublin)

340th FTG commander meets the Firebirds

Col. Allen Duckworth, 340th Flying Training Group commander, meets with Col. Douglas Gosney, 14th Flying Training Wing commander, June 25, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Duckworth has worked in active duty and Reserve units since 1996, after graduating from the Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- The Air Force Reserve Command’s 340th Flying Training Group commander, Col. Allen Duckworth, visited the 43rd Flying Training Squadron here June 25-26, spoke with the squadron’s leadership and observe daily operations.

Duckworth recently took command of the 340th FTG and is visiting his squadrons in order to better understand their different cultures and contributions to the training of pilots across the Air Force.

Meeting with Col. Douglas Gosney, 14th Flying Training Wing commander, upon arrival allowed for the two commanders to speak about their priorities and build a relationship between the new Reserve leadership and current Active Duty wing commander.

“I’m going around to each squadron so they get a chance to know who I am and so I can deliver my vision and priorities to them,” Duckworth said. “I also like to reach out and touch base [with] local leadership and make sure we have a shared understanding and see if there’s any challenges we want to overcome. … We want and need to have a strong relationship to achieve our mutual goals and missions.”

The 43rd FTS Firebirds are one of seven training squadrons in the 340th FTG. Two-thirds of the overall group’s mission is to produce pilots, so what the 43rd FTS and other flying squadrons do is critical to the Reserve and active components. What makes the Firebirds unique is its integration of flights within 14th FTW squadrons to complete the pilot training mission.

“It means a lot to us for him to take time out of his busy schedule to see how we do business at the 43rd FTS,” said Lt. Col. Thomas McElhinney, 43rd FTS commander. “The 340th FTG does a fantastic job supporting us over the phone and through email, but over the last 24 hours of him talking with individuals and seeing their non-verbal expressions may give him valuable feedback to take back to the group and take action on the subject.”

Duckworth worked with a similar squadron at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and said he knows the relatively small Reserve instructor pilot community well and understands their priorities.

He recalled being on active duty for over nine years, flying the A-10 Thunderbolt II through most of his time, then continued flying the A-10 for the next eight years in the Reserves. Duckworth said, the compelling thing of the Reserves was the balance of the mission and family life.

Later he worked with the 97th Flying Training Squadron at Sheppard AFB to get more flying time and said he felt it was extremely rewarding to be a part of the instructing cadre making energetic and motivated student pilots into full military aviators in a year.

“The 340th FTG is [Air Education and Training Command’s] partner in all training aspects,” Duckworth said. “In this case, the 43rd FTS being the 14th Flying Training Wing’s partner in training new pilots in the Air Force. They love to do it and they’re really good at doing it too. I know that every one of them is dedicated to making sure everyone who earns a set of wings is absolutely the ready pilot the Air Force needs.”

The cohesion between the Reserves, Air National Guard and active duty across the Air Force is a concept usually referred to as the Total Force.

“If you look at the overall Air Force and ask ‘Why do we have the Total Force Initiative,’” Duckworth said. “It makes sense to train like that from the beginning. We are going to go to combat that way. … If student pilots can see some instructors from the very beginning wearing 43rd FTS patches and others wearing Air Education and Training Command patches, they will recognize it is just one team. We are all just part of that greater mission.”

He spoke about how the Firebirds are part of Columbus AFB to help fill instructing and leadership spaces to quickly and efficiently train pilots for the Air Force.

“Everybody has their role,” Duckworth said. “In our case, we bring continuity and experience. We just retired someone who had served for 33 years … we have mission experience and experience from other jobs outside of the military and the continuity in comparison to the turnover rate of Airmen from the active side. The active-duty side brings in the newer faces, straight from pit in the instance of the first term instructor pilots. They’re bringing in the new experience and a refreshing new energy from the ‘regular’ Air Force side.”

With years of experience and more hours in the training environment them most Active Duty Airmen, the 340th FTG provides a mission that is as unique as it is important.

“Our mission [in the 340th FTG] is to provide mission-credible Airmen to the Air Force,” Duckworth stated. “We achieve that through several programs. As you already know, here at Columbus and several other AETC bases, we work side-by-side with active-duty aviators to produce top-quality instructor pilots. We also touch the lives of three out of four new enlisted members during basic military training through our Reserve military training instructors, who are embedded in every BMT squadron and accomplish every duty that their active counterparts accomplish. We have the honor of providing first views for much of the service.”

Since Duckworth took command, he said he hopes to take away more information, broader awareness of the challenges his squadrons face, and hopes to have a better understanding of the relationship between the 340th FTG and the 14th FTW, making the total force mindset deeply integrated in the Air Force community.