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GAF chief of staff returns to place where flying career began

GAF chief of staff returns to Sheppard

Col. Russell Driggers (right), 80th Flying Training Wing commander, welcomes German air force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz to Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Dec. 13, 2019. GAF pilots have completed undergraduate pilot training at Sheppard since 1966. (U.S. Air Force Photo by 2nd Lt. Megan Morrissey)

GAF chief of staff returns to Sheppard

Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, chief of staff for the German air force, and staff learn about the new technology supplementing the pilot training curiculum for the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Dec. 13, 2019. Pilot training students are able to use these devices to study the maneuvers with stop/start capabilities even before they hit the flightline. (U.S. Air Force Photo by 2nd Lt. Megan Morrissey)

GAF chief of staff returns to Sheppard

German air force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz experiences virtual reality technology students use today in the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Dec. 13, 2019. Gerhartz graduated from ENJJPT in the late 1980s. (U.S. Air Force Photo by 2nd Lt. Megan Morrissey)

GAF chief of staff returns to Sheppard

A staff member of the German air force chief of staff adjusts virtual reality headgear during a visit to the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Dec. 13, 2019. Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals has replaced a graded air combat manuvering simulator flight in their training with the new virtual and augumented reality simulator. (U.S. Air Force Photo by 2nd Lt. Megan Morrissey)

GAF chief of staff returns to Sheppard

Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, chief of staff for the German air force, speaks to German student pilots, instructors and permanant party stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Dec. 13, 2019. Also in the audience were members of the GAF tactical training center headquarters, which recently transferred here from Holloman AFB, New Mexico. (U.S. Air Force Photo by 2nd Lt. Megan Morrissey)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – A lot has change over the past 30 years since German air force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz earned his wings as a graduate of the 80th Flying Training Wing’s Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program in the late 1980s.

One thing hasn’t changed – the program continues to produce the highest quality fighter pilots for NATO.

“You are the future of NATO air forces,” he said during the graduation of the newest Turkish, German, U.S. and Canadian pilots graduating the UPT program Dec. 13 at Sheppard AFB.

Since the general completed his pilot training, the program has seen the retirement of the T-37 Tweet and the introduction of the T-6A Texan II, changes to the syllabus that is incorporating more technology to the curriculum, and new NATO partners joining ENJJPT.

After learning about the 82nd Training Wing’s role of providing instillation and military support services to ENJJPT, Gerhartz received a mission brief from 80th FTW leadership that includes program changes, including a new capability brief for the Air Force’s newest advanced training aircraft, the T-7A Red Hawk.

GAF student pilots have been part of undergraduate pilot training here in Wichita Falls well before ENJJPT was established. The 3630th FTW trained American and German students since August 1966.

The 3630th FTW deactivated on Jan. 1, 1973, and the 80th FTW was activated the same day without changes to personnel and resources. Throughout the years other countries have sent pilots here as part of the Security Assistance Training Program, however, Germany is largest and longest standing partner with the program.

In addition to the GAF presence at ENJJPT, the GAF recently transferred its tactical training command headquarters to Sheppard AFB from Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

Currently, 22 GAF students are participating in either UPT or Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals courses. There are 30 instructor pilots, including 80th Operations Group Commander Col. Stefan Kleinheyer.

Gerhartz reminisced about his time in North Texas, saying it’s more than just a training location for the GAF.

“I learned more than just flying here at ENJJPT,” he said. “I came to know the country and its people and since that time, I have deeply, deeply connected with the great state of Texas and the United States of America. I can truly say they are my second home.”