NEWS | Oct. 15, 2015

39th FTS instructor pilots impact generations

Citizen Airman Magazine

Snuggled in the outskirts of San Antonio lies Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, which houses a unique squadron with a very serious mission – to train those who will train future Air Force pilots.

The 39th Flying Training Squadron, which falls under the 340th Flying Training Group, has a mission to provide the Air Force with top-notch instructor pilots. The Reserve squadron of 62 trains and mentors up-and-coming instructor pilots who, in turn, train the next generation of Air Force pilots.

The 340th FTG's mission is to train and provide a reserve of experienced instructors to augment the Air Education and Training Command instructor cadre. It does that by hiring quality military aviators who meet the established requirements.

"Our instructors have thousands and thousands of hours of flight experience," said Lt. Col. David Partain, 39th FTS commander. "We have instructor pilots who support all four squadrons at JBSA-Randolph."

Those four squadrons are the 99th, 559th and 560th FTS, and the 435th Fighter Training Squadron.

"We spend most of our operational days at work kind of separated from each other," Partain said. "We have a flight that flies with the T-6 squadron, one with the T-1 and another with the T-38."

The 39th FTS instructor pilots have a lot of flying experience on both the military and civilian side.

"I have about 5,300 hours in the T-38," said Lt. Col. Jeff Wallace, 39th FTS operations officer. "I am also a civilian airline pilot."

Wallace, whose call sign is Rusty, said he plans to retire this month after 26 years of service. He is leaving with more flying hours in the T-38 than any pilot in Air Force Reserve Command.

"Out of the 25 years I've flown, 22 of them I've been an instructor pilot," Wallace said. "I like teaching and seeing the pilots improve.

"I also feel like it's one of the most important jobs because we start to build the foundation and as the students go on with their careers, the Air Force builds on top of that," he said. "For example, they go on to become F-15 or C-130 pilots, but we teach them the fundamentals."

Recently, the squadron of Reservists held a training event to sharpen their search-and-rescue skills. The 39th FTS joined with other military and civilian agencies May 7 to simulate a search-and-rescue operation involving a downed pilot in open water.

"They dropped a cable, we hooked up, and they extracted us out of the water," said Lt. Col. Rich Lowe, 39th FTS T-6 instructor pilot. "It's realistic training – something that would actually happen in a real scenario."

The search-and-rescue event was part of the squadron's bi-annual training. Members of the 39th FTS were dropped in the middle of Canyon Lake, Texas and each took turns getting hoisted up into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

The training involved agencies such as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Task Force 1 and the Army National Guard. Each agency supported the event and received some training as well.

"We just had an emergency hoist put on our newest helicopter, which is the same one being used, and it operates the same way," said Dwayne Havis, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Warden Aviation Division. "So, now, we're in the business of doing search and rescues, but we haven't received the training yet.

"We knew this event was happening, so we wanted to come to observe," he said. "By this time next year, we hope to actually participate in it."

The training event wasn't the only activity planned. Later that night, members of the squadron and their families got together for a huge barbecue.

"We don't get to interact on a daily basis, so we come together twice a year and do all of our standard training," Partain said. "And once a year we do a water survival event. The real benefit for me, as a commander, is seeing everybody get together and get to know each other."

The 340th FTG is looking for motivated and experienced instructor pilots to join any of its six Reserve flying training squadrons.

"We want folks who display the Air Force core values, who are committed to serving their country and really committed beyond just our basic job," Partain said. "You'll have a chance to speak into the lives of these young instructors who can then speak into the lives of brand-new Air Force pilots."

"I wouldn't trade what I've done the last 25 years for anything," Wallace said. "Some of these guys were my students back when they were 22, 23 years old, and they remember you if you make a difference for them. Hopefully, you've built a good foundation for them."

For more information on the 340th FTG or how to join, visit http://www.afrc.af.mil/Units/340FTG.aspx.