49th FTS cultivates pilots into fighter wingmen
By Airman Hannah Bean, 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 02, 2018
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- The 49th Fighter Training Squadron teaches newly graduated pilots how to operate the T-38 Talon to conduct flight training as well as fighter fundamentals; and in addition to training pilots they also train weapon systems officers.
“Generally everybody on base is teaching (student pilots) how to get from point A to point B safely,” said Capt. John McGowan, 49th FTS C flight commander. “That part we don’t teach. We teach them, once they’re at point B, how you employ your aircraft.”
The 49th FTS mission is to create wingmen for the Combat Air Force. The instructor pilots assigned to the 49th FTS transitions the pilots from the basics of flying to becoming a fighter pilot. Those selected learn basic fighter maneuvers and surface attacks in the T-38 at Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals which lasts about eight weeks.
“This is an organization that falls underneath the 14th Flying Training Wing because even though they’ve already became pilots and they’ve already earned their wings, they know nothing about tactical aviation and/or most importantly, how to be a wingman,” said Maj. Dennis Simerly, 49th Fighter Training Squadron assistant director of operations. “Even though we’re not creating pilots, we’re creating fighter wingmen, which is the tactical side of aviation.”
Instructor pilots assigned to the 49th FTS dedicate a great deal of time and effort into training pilots, heavily focusing on shaping them into dependable wingmen who are capable of fighter aviation.
“The most important part of learning basic skill sets is how to be a wingman because that’s going to be the most important part when they get to their follow on training for wherever they go for whichever major weapon system they go to, they’re going to be a wingmen first well on before they become a flight lead or an instructor pilot themselves,” Simerly said. “The most important thing we do is dedicate lots of time (for them).”
Simerly said the foundation to becoming a flight lead is being wingman first; and he said that starts with trust within each other. They want to be that wingman that a flight lead wants to take into combat because the trust is there, the tactical proficiency is there, and it’s who they want on their wing.
The 49th FTS holds a high standard to ensure the pilots that leave the squadron are highly capable of working well with a team and able to adjust accordingly when needed.
“(We’re) holding the line for the standard of what we want to go out there flying these multi-million dollar aircraft,” McGowan said. “Setting a standard, making sure that we make our wingmen live up to that before they get to the more expensive aircraft where they’re by themselves. Most of the people that who leave here will go to a single seat airplane that they’re doing everything all at once. Not just flying the airplane but now employing at the same time. As long as we can hold that standard, we have a better product out there that can then get to be the most advanced Air Force out there.”
The standard set by the 49th FTS not only aids the Air Force, it ensure the pilots are highly capable of their job with the most professional attitude needed to accomplish the mission.
“This is the first step at the 49th to becoming a fighter wingman, so they can progress on in their career, become a flight lead, become an IP, go to weapons school, or go to wherever the opportunities lead them,” Simerly said.