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AETC holds inaugural flying competition

By Maj. Brian Nickerson | 19th Air Force | Oct. 30, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, TEXAS – The excitement and anticipation from the crowd was palpable as you entered the Fleenor Auditorium Friday night. 


The evening marked the culmination of the past year’s flying training production from across Air Education and Training Command and the inception of the first annual AETC Flying Training Awards ceremony.  Reminiscent of events like the Strategic Air Command’s Bomb Competition, the Flying Training Awards paid tribute to those exceptional individuals and teams whose tireless efforts continue to produce highly qualified aircrew for the Air Force over the last fiscal year.


Maj. Gen. Partick Doherty, 19th Air Force commander, conceptualized the idea earlier in the year to prioritize, recognize, and show the aircrew and instructors of AETC that they are valued. The general also emphasized the importance of honoring the teamwork that permeates each of the wings within the command. 


“Everything we do relies on incredible teamwork,” Doherty said. “Airpower is a team sport – the ultimate competition – and I think it is imperative that we recognize the teams that accomplish the mission the best, doing it in a way that cares for their people, sustains the aircraft fleet for the long haul, and accomplishes this in a way that lifts teams to greater heights of production and quality of instruction.”


With that guidance, his team at 19 AF began to develop an event that would keep attendees talking with their peers for weeks to follow.  As the tower opened on the airfield in the morning, aircraft from across the country began to arrive and populate the southern ramp.  The normal sounds of T-38s, T-6s, and T-1s flying overhead were punctuated by C-130s, F-16s, and F-35s. 


By the time the sun began to set, the ramp was full of the iron representative of the 1,471 aircraft that is the massive flying enterprise of 19 AF.


It began unassumingly as songs about flying, interspersed with motivational flying and heritage videos, and provided background filler to the handshakes and bro-hugs between command members, some of whom have not seen each other for years. 


Suddenly, as all the attendee’s accurately hacked watches turned to 1700 hours, the theater lights went out and the presentation screen lit up.  All at once, the audience was presented with videos capturing the extraordinary work that each unit within 19 AF accomplishes on a daily basis.  The only sounds that could be heard above the presentation were the prideful cheers as a particular aircraft or mission was on display.


“The flying business and sortie production by maintainers is hard work requiring constant preparation and mental alertness,” said Doherty during his opening remarks.  “It is tough on the body.  We are incredibly proud and thankful for the people that strap on the mission.” 


To provide a scope for the magnitude of their effort he noted that the AETC flying enterprise under 19 AF is a staggering 50 percent of the entire Air Force’s flying hour program.


First, the individual awards, known as the High Flyers, were given to instructors knocking out the most grade sheets – the ones that love the mission, love to fly, and love to instruct.  57 total High Flyers were honored ranging from T-6 pilots to intelligence instructors to loadmasters.  This was quickly followed by the team presentations.  As the emcee introduced the category, a low murmur could be heard amongst the crowd, as the previously covered team trophies were revealed for the first time.  Each unique in its own right, every trophy was impressive to behold, but the 3-foot tall gleaming silver cup dwarfed all in size and presence.  Named in honor of Lt. Gen. Henry Viccellio, Sr., the first and third commander of 19 AF, the cup was presented to the top overall flying training wing within AETC. 


The rest of the awards ceremony ensued as expected with cheers and applause for the top teams, each crowding the front of the theater to receive their trophy and take a picture with the commander.


This year’s winners are:


  • Top Future Aviator Category: 1st Flying Training Squadron, 306th Flying Training Group, Pueblo, Colorado


  • T-6 Category: 8th FTS, 71st Flying Training Wing, Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma


  • T-1 Category: 48th FTS, 14th FTW, Columbus AFB, Ohio


  • T-38 Category: 469th FTS, 80th FTW, Sheppard AFB, Texas


  • Combat Systems Officer/Remotely Pilot Aircraft/Air Battle Manager Category: 558th FTS, 12th FTW, JBSA-Randolph, Texas


  • Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals Category: 435th Fighter Training Squadron, 12th FTW, JBSA-Randolph, Texas


  • Pilot Instructor Training Category: 559th FTS, 12th FTW, JBSA-Randolph, Texas


  • Fighter Category: 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Wing, Luke AFB, Arizona

  • SOF/Mobility Category: 415th Special Operations Squadron, 58th Special Operations Wing, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico


  • Rotary Category: 71st SOS, 58th SOW, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico


  • Top Maintenance Group: 12th Maintenance Group, 12th FTW, JBSA-Randolph, Texas


  • Top Maintenance Group in Gray Jet Division: 54th Fighter Group, Holloman AFB, New Mexico


  • Top Maintenance Group in Gray Tail Division: 58th Maintenance Group, 58th SOW, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico


  • Top Operations Group in White Jet Division: 12th Operations Group, 12th FTW, JBSA-Randolph, Texas


  • Top Operations Group in Gray Jet Division: 56th Operations Group, 56th FW, Luke AFB, Arizona


  • Top Operations Group in Gray Tail Division: 189th Operations Group, 189th Airlift Wing, Little Rock AFB, Arkansas


  • Top Wing White Jet: 12th FTW, JBSA-Randolph, Texas


  • Top Gray Jet Wing (Fighters): 56th FW, Luke AFB, Arizona


  • Top Wing Gray Tail: 58th SOW, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico


  • Top Wing of Wings: 12th FTW, JBSA-Randolph, Texas


The celebration continued as the attendees filed out of the theater, trophies in hand, and proceeded to the Auger Inn for a crud tournament.  Spirits were high as crud teams competed for the top spot.  As the music died down and Columbus AFB’s team “Blaze” conquered the crud table, one was left with a sense accomplishment and anticipation as next year’s awards ceremony promises to build on the excitement and scale of this inaugural event.


Aircrew returned to their bases in the days to follow, knowing that their hard work and effort over the past year were greatly appreciated. 


“Whether they are individuals or teams, their efforts, professionalism, energy, and love of training aircrew for our country’s defense and those of our key ally partners needs to be recognized and celebrated,” said Doherty.