SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – The engines roared and a crew of Airmen took their positions on the flight line, signaling to the pilots it was time to go, as Operation Agile Dragon took flight here at Sheppard AFB.
Recently, a team of new and experienced A-10 pilots from the 357th Fighter Squadron and aircraft maintainers from the 355th Maintenance Group, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, conducted an exercise here with a mission to familiarize the pilots with off-site flying locations.
This exercise is a requirement for the pilots as part of their A-10 ‘B’ Course syllabus to graduate.
Sheppard was already familiar grounds for some of the pilots and all of the maintainers assigned to the temporary duty exercise, returning to where the journey began for their career. The 82nd Training Wing here is home to all aircraft maintenance training, and the 80th Flying Training Wing is the only internationally manned and operated flying training program in the Air Force, both turning out highly qualified individuals into the operational Air Force year round.
Some of the former trainees and now participants of OAD had an opportunity to use their learned skills during the exercise, while also being reminded of the time spent here and the impact it has had on them.
“It feels good to be back here,” said Airman Brody Cole, a 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “Sheppard prepared me very well and it’s a great job. It’s very fulfilling.”
Cole has only been in his job field for seven months since leaving training at Sheppard. His favorite part of his job, he said, is the sense of pride he has and playing a part in the Air Force story of the A-10.
“If I could tell other AiTs what to focus on while they’re here, I would say just slow down and enjoy what you do,” he added.
For A-10 pilot 1st Lt. Dylan Mackey, 357th FS, Sheppard is where he attended the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program for Undergraduate Pilot Training and Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals, before taking his seat in the A-10. Returning to the place where it all started, in the aircraft he set out to fly, made it even more special for him.
“Coming through ENJJPT at Sheppard with UPT and IFF was a great experience,” he said. “I graduated almost a year ago, so being here is like coming back full circle and is really awesome.”
It was also personal for Mackey.
“My goal was to fly the A-10 like my dad, and here I am,” he continued. “Just know your end game, what you are fighting for and just keep pushing to get one step closer. Everyone here wants to help you and make sure you achieve your goals.”
Davis-Monthan AFB plans to conduct this operation and training exercise for each graduating class bringing the A-10s, pilots and maintenance support here twice a year.
The visit is also beneficial for AiT currently going through training because it gives them an opportunity to get an up-close look at operational aircraft as well as a fully operational group of maintainers and pilots working hand in hand.