Civic Leaders get unique view of pilot training

  • Published
  • By Maj. Elizabeth Magnusson
  • 944th Fighter Wing

944th Fighter Wing Reserve Citizen Airmen and 162nd Wing Arizona Air National Guardsmen partnered to offer civic leaders from Phoenix and Tucson a unique view of pilot training during an overnight trip to Gila Bend Auxiliary Airfield and the Barry M. Goldwater Range Jan. 18 and 19.

The tour included a visit to the Barry M. Goldwater Range at Gila Bend where the civic leaders watched F-16 and A-10 aircraft practice air-to-air and air-to-ground maneuvers as well as night bombing missions. Additionally, the group received in-depth briefings of the range and visited with the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight.

"The BMGR is a national treasure that can't be duplicated or replaced anywhere else in this country," said Col. Bryan Cook, 944th Fighter Wing commander, during his welcome remarks at Gila Bend. "While we are out on the range you will get a chance to see why it is so important in training F-16, A-10 and F-35 pilots here."

Civic leaders also had the opportunity to learn about conservation efforts on the range regarding endangered animal species, such as the Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope, and 56th Range Management Office protection of the more than 1,200 cultural and archeological sites.

"This was truly one of the most educational as well as fun events I've done in a long time", said Gary Spadafore, Breakthru Beverage Arizona, Director of Education. "It was so great mingling with folks that are so dedicated and committed to keeping our nation strong."

The range is used by active-duty, Guard and Reserve Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine units. It also features 1.7 million acres of open range including ground targets, radar control, tactical data link, large-scale laser target scoring system, "smokey" surface to air missiles to give pilots realistic training against air defenses and a recent addition has been a moving target system.

Luke and 162nd Wing F-16 Fighting Falcons along with Davis-Monthan and 944 FW A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft practiced day and night bombing, rocket attacks, and strafing runs during the civic leader visit to demonstrate capabilities of the jets and the range.

"Our Honorary Commanders Tour to the Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field - with F-16 and A-10 Warthog both day and night practice bombing runs - was awesome,” said Terrie Frankel, author and Honorary Commander with the 944th Medical Squadron. “Every moment of our tour was perfectly planned. Thank you to everyone, including my fellow Honorary Commanders from both the 944th and the 162nd Wings for making this Honorary Commander’s tour a huge success! We took away remarkable memories that will last a lifetime."

"This trip was a great way for us to showcase the Guard and Reserve missions and how they support our Active Duty partners,” said Cook. “Our partnership is based on our common mission and the tremendous support of our local communities."