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Sheppard a stop during F-35A Lightning II road tour

Sheppard a stop on F-35A Lightning II road tour

An F-35A Lightning II taxis to a parking spot as aircraft from the 80th Flying Training Wing's Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program taxi out for a training mission at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Jan. 10, 2019. Four F-35s from Eglin AFB stopped at Sheppard as part of an undergraduate pilot training base road tour to show the aircraft to ENJJPT student pilots as well as provide capability briefings. Some F-35 aircraft maintenance Airmen in training from the 82nd Training Wing were also able to get an up close look at the fifth-generation fighter and talk with active duty maintenance Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by John Ingle)

Sheppard a stop on F-35A Lightning II road tour

Staff Sgt. Thomas Garrity (third from right), an avionics maintenance Airman from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., talks to avionics Airmen in training from the 365th Training Squadron about the F-35A Lightning II at Sheppard AFB, Texas, Jan. 10, 2019. Four F-35s from Eglin AFB stopped at Sheppard as part of an undergraduate pilot training base road tour to show the aircraft to 80th Flying Training Wing student pilots as well as provide capability briefings. Some F-35 aircraft maintenance Airmen in training from the 82nd Training Wing were also able to get an up close look at the fifth-generation fighter and talk with active duty maintenance Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by John Ingle)

Sheppard a stop on F-35A Lightning II road tour

Staff Sgt. Stephen Reynolds, an avionics journeyman from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., communicates with the pilot on an F-35A Lightning II after the aircraft landed at Sheppard AFB, Texas, Jan. 10, 2019. Four F-35s from Eglin AFB stopped at Sheppard as part of an undergraduate pilot training base road tour to show the aircraft to 80th Flying Training Wing student pilots as well as provide capability briefings. Some F-35 aircraft maintenance Airmen in training from the 82nd Training Wing were also able to get an up close look at the fifth-generation fighter and talk with active duty maintenance Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by John Ingle)

Sheppard a stop on F-35A Lightning II road tour

Ground crew from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., receive an F-35A Lightning II on the 80th Flying Training Wing ramp at Sheppard AFB, Texas, Jan. 10, 2019. Four F-35s from Eglin AFB stopped at Sheppard as part of an undergraduate pilot training base road tour to show the aircraft to Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program student pilots as well as provide capability briefings. Some F-35 aircraft maintenance Airmen in training from the 82nd Training Wing were also able to get an up close look at the fifth-generation fighter and talk with active duty maintenance Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by John Ingle)

Sheppard a stop on F-35A Lightning II road tour

A Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program pilot in the back seat of a T-6A Texan II watches as an F-35A Lightning II lands at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Jan. 10, 2019. Four F-35s from Eglin AFB stopped at Sheppard as part of an undergraduate pilot training base road tour to show the aircraft to 80th Flying Training Wing student pilots as well as provide capability briefings. Some F-35 aircraft maintenance Airmen in training from the 82nd Training Wing were also able to get an up close look at the fifth-generation fighter and talk with active duty maintenance Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by John Ingle)

Sheppard a stop on F-35A Lightning II road tour

An F-35A Lightning II from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., takes off as a T-6A Texan II taxis in preparation for a training mission at Sheppard AFB, Texas, Jan. 10, 2019. Four F-35s from Eglin AFB stopped at Sheppard as part of an undergraduate pilot training base road tour to show the aircraft to 80th Flying Training Wing student pilots as well as provide capability briefings. Some F-35 aircraft maintenance Airmen in training from the 82nd Training Wing were also able to get an up close look at the fifth-generation fighter and talk with active duty maintenance Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by John Ingle)

Four F-35A Lightning IIs stopped at Sheppard AFB Jan. 10, 2019, as part of 33rd Fighter Wing's road tour to the Air Force's undergraduate pilot training bases in Air Education and Training Command. Those bases included Laughlin AFB and Sheppard AFB in Texas; Vance AFB, Oklahoma; and Columbus AFB, Mississippi.

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – The Air Force has bolstered its aerial fighting capabilities with aircraft like the F-35A Lightning II, and now it’s time to get young student pilots excited about flying fifth-generation jet fighters.

Combat pilots from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, made a stop here Jan. 11, 2019, to give students of the 80th Flying Training Wing’s Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program and up-close look at the sleek one-seater jet as well as talk about some of its unique features and how the Air Force is deploying it now and into the future. It was part of a five-day road tour that included stops at Sheppard; Laughlin AFB, Texas; Vance AFB, Oklahoma; and Columbus AFB, Mississippi.

“Really, big picture, we’re just trying to get people excited to fly fighters and bring a fifth-gen fighter here for everyone to see,” said Capt. Jeremy Devlin, an F-35 pilot with the 58th Fighter Squadron. “It’s not too often students get to see them.”

After the arrival of the F-35s, ENJJPT students and staff were able to walk around the aircraft as its pilots spoke about the different nuances of the Lightning II. The pilots then provided capability briefings to students followed by question and answer periods.

Devlin, who flew F-16 Fighting Falcons for 2 ½ years before transitioning to the Lightning II more than a year ago, said fifth-generation aircraft often stir excitement among the flying community because of the unknowns that have yet to be discovered. Although the “switchology,” seating position and other aspects of the F-35 are similar to the F-16, for example, the way the aircraft flies and the types of missions it’s used for presents a new and exciting challenge.

He said although the rigors of pilot training can be a grind, the end result is to get students motivated to excel in learning their craft.

Just as ENJJPT is unique in that it is an organization comprised of 14 NATO partners that produces combat pilots for the Alliance, the F-35 is a product of international cooperation, according to an Air Combat Command fact sheet.

“With nine countries involved in its development (United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Australia), the F-35 represents a new model of international cooperation, ensuring U.S. and coalition partner security well into the 21st century. The F-35 also brings together strategic international partnerships, providing affordability by reducing redundant research and development and providing access to technology around the world.”

It’s not just the pilots sitting behind the flight controls that get excited about the F-35. Those who maintain the sleek, multimillion dollar aircraft such as crew chiefs, avionics, hydraulics, propulsion and other specialties trained by the 82nd Training Wing here at Sheppard are equally pumped up to see and touch the single aircraft that will replace two reliable but old aircraft – the F-16 and A-10.

Airman 1st Class John Rose will have the benefit of starting out on the F-35 from the get go. The 365th Training Squadron student said he isn’t a natural “gearhead,” but the excitement of working on the aircraft has grown as his training has progressed.

Seeing the aircraft and talking with its maintainers, though, helps put a little more reality to what he’s been doing thus far.

“I knew it was an impressive aircraft, but seeing it in person, it looks even more amazing. The technology is unbelievable,” he said. “Just from the 10 minutes so far that I’ve spent with the maintainer from Eglin, I’ve already gained a lot of valuable information. That brings the book knowledge to life.”

Staff Sgt. Thomas Garrity, an F-35 avionics technician with the 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said he is proud to be part of the tour and experience the excitement the host bases show when the aircraft arrive. That includes, in Sheppard’s case, Airmen in training who are in the processing of learning how to maintain the multirole fighter.

He said he began his Air Force career at Sheppard as a C-130 Hercules avionics student. After being stationed at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, for three years, he moved to Eglin and cross trained into F-35 avionics.

“They are vastly different, but the knowledge transfers over,” he said of the different airframes. “It made the transition very easy. The knowledge that you learn coming through maintenance training, the knowledge transfers very smoothly.”

The road tour wrapped up Jan. 14 at Columbus AFB.