JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
A congressional mandate for increased total force integration authorized the 147th Attack Wing of the Texas Air National Guard to stand up a small Air Education and Training Command Undergraduate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training, or URT, detachment.
Being the sole source for all U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps Undergraduate Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or RPA, pilot and sensor operator training, the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, was the answer.
The 558th FTS graduates 24 students every three weeks through the RPA Instrument Qualification Course and RPA Fundamentals Course for pilots and Basic Sensor Operator Course for Sensor operators.
Providing support is the purpose of 147th Operations Group Det. 1 at the 558th FTS.
“Our mission is to support the operation of the 558th FTS by providing formal military instruction and mentoring to produce the world’s greatest remotely piloted aircraft pilot and sensor operator warriors,” said Lt. Col. Jason Green, 147th Operations Group/ Det. 1 commander. “But, uniquely, we also provide onsite mentorship and support for Air National Guard pilot and sensor operator students.”
The 558th FTS welcomed the 147th OG/Det. 1 with open arms.
“The 147th Detachment is instrumental to the 558th FTS meeting production requirements. Just like the RPA community, where the Guard and Reserve are such a critical part of the effectiveness of combat capabilities, it is exactly the same at the undergraduate level of training,” said Lt. Col. Eric Bissonette, 558th Flying Training Squadron commander. “Our Guard teammates are building pilots and sensors that will be able to immediately contribute to mission execution across all RPA platforms.”
Because 147 OG/Det. 1 instructors will maintain their MQ-9 combat mission-ready qualifications at their home wing at Ellington Joint Reserve Base in Houston, they will raise the collective RPA experience level and relevance of the URT and BSOC cadre.
“Our detachment provides highly experienced, current and qualified MQ-9 combat aviators to teach alongside the undergrad RPA instructor team here at the 558 FTS,” Green said. “Our full time Air National Guard instructors will infuse undergrad RPA training curriculum and instruction with knowledge of the latest MQ-9 combat tactics, techniques, and procedures and operational software and hardware changes.”
In addition to providing deeper training, having the 147th OG/Det 1 at the 558th FTS assists with meeting the steadily increasing instructor manning requirements because now the USAF can tap into the pool of experienced Air National Guard pilots and sensor operators
For Air National Guard students training at the 558th FTS, the detachment offers a unique opportunity.
“Guard pilots and sensor operator students attending training are now afforded the choice for face-to-face interaction and mentorship with Air National Guard instructors - an opportunity they have not had up until now,” Green said.
Developing a seamless embed, the 147th OG Texas Air National Guardsmen are dual-hatted with specific detachment responsibilities, as well as filling active-duty 558th FTS operational and leadership positions.
“There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose in this situation,” said Staff Sgt. James Jeffers, BSOC instructor, 12th OG. “Continuity is a huge part in any operation, and it’s is just one of the many things the 147th OG, Det. 1, will provide us. Not only will it help our manning here in the schoolhouse, it will add a different scope for us as community to open doors where they’ve never been opened before.”
“We are fortunate to have such a unique partnership that allows students and instructors to know the true total force nature of the community from day one,” said Bissonette. “We look forward to working alongside the 147th OG for years to come, building the next generation of warfighters.”
The 147th OG/Det. 1 will reach full operational capability on April 1, 2020.