300 sorties makes for an Awesome Day at ENJJPT

  • Published
  • By John Ingle
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — If one was to ask Col. Robert Haas Jr. what kind of day it is at the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program here, the 80th Flying Training Wing commander has a simple, yet consistent reply — every day is an awesome day. Haas said the unique flying training program is the crown jewel for building partnerships and producing combat pilots for the NATO alliance. But every now and again, he said the only internationally-manned and operated program of its kind needs to put some "proof behind the pudding." The leadership team from all facets of the program set out to find something to challenge the wing to do just that. As one of the busiest joint-use airfields in the Air Force and among the tops in the number of training missions flown daily - typically 240-250 - the group looked at eclipsing the record for the number of sorties flown in a single day, which was 309. "We were looking to see if on a big fly day if we could do 310 or better," he said. "A fair amount of planning went into this because it was more than just flying around the flagpole. It was actually flying mission sorties while we did this." The plan was set into motion on May 12, 2022, with Team ENJJPT focused on reaching their target on a day that was coined "Awesome Day" within the program. Although operations were humming at an increased tempo, the program fell short of their goal, reaching 300 sorties in a single day. Haas said he was proud of the team's performance throughout the day, describing the environment as energetic and full of excitement. He said they received regular updates on the status of T-6A Texan II, T-38C Talon and Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals progress throughout the long day of executing their daily mission while "taking a 3-point shot from half court." Compounding the lofty goal was the fact that the program is managing a shortage in T-38 engines, which has reduced the number of the more-than 60-year-old aircraft available for flight. "We want to make sure every hour that we put on the T-38 is for mission-generation," Haas said. "The maintenance team pulled it together and we had a full line-up and we actually had a spare T-38 on our first go, which we quickly bled through. But the maintenance team really got up on the step, our ops team really got up on the step, and we executed probably the best that you could expect to do on a big fly day." Haas said it was important for the team to take a knee after the hard work put in on Awesome Day and reflect on their one-day achievement. The day was one of fellowship and family, he said, with directions to host unit-centric events. The commander also hosted a "full-blown" commander's call that included instructor pilots, student pilots, civilians and everyone in between — a rarity given factors during his tenure such as the Coronavirus pandemic, two major snow events that halted training, regular weekend flying and graduations. The celebration continued for the team and their families later in the day at an off-base location as an additional reminder of the uniqueness of the program; of the ENJJPT family. Haas said a great amount of effort went into making sure Awesome Day and the subsequent recognition of ENJJPT's accomplishments went without a hitch — or at least with as few hitches as possible. He said he was proud of the across-the-board enthusiasm the team displayed while still effectively achieving the mission of the program. "On this day, we actually set a pretty high goal for the wing to execute," he said. "The most magical part was you could sense it. Everybody was looking to achieve that goal. On that one specific day, it was an achievable goal and it was a smart goal. Everyone was trying to get there." Will there be another Awesome Day in the future? Perhaps, but not likely under Haas' tenure as the veteran combat pilot with almost 27 years of service is set to retire next month. Then again, as Haas often says, every day at ENJJPT is an Awesome Day.