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33rd FW executes off-station training at MacDill AFB and NAS Key West

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christian Corley
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

Nomads with the 33rd Fighter Wing traveled to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, and Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, to conduct routine flying training during the month of February. 


MacDill AFB and NAS Key West’s airspaces allowed student and instructor pilots to train in an unfamiliar area while avoiding weather attrition. 


“The weather here on the gulf coast tends to have a lot of sea fog, so we’ve lost a lot of sorties in the past,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Jack Arthaud, commander of the 33rd FW. “We wanted to get on the road to fly more and stay ahead of the training timeline.”


The 58th Fighter Squadron focused on getting flight hours for their Basic Course Students.


“We came down here to execute the [basic flight maneuvers] phase for our B-course but also for the instructor’s continuation training so that we can also be as proficient as possible,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Seth Freeman, an F-35A Lightning II instructor pilot with the 58th FS, 33rd FW. “The B-course is flying four times per student in a five-day period.”


While the 58th focused on their basic course students during their BFM phase of training, the 60th Fighter Squadron concentrated on training for the Transition Course Students, who, unlike the B-course students, have had previous assignments in other fighter aircraft before being assigned to fly the F-35A Lightning II. 


“The 60th is doing more air-to-air and air-to-ground training as a whole,” said Freeman. “They are also doing large force exercise scenarios with other units.”


New airspace comes with changes that student and instructor pilots must adapt to. 


“Combat is dynamic in nature, and so is flying,” said Freeman. “We can get comfortable flying in our local airspace back at Eglin AFB, so if we can go off-station, we can exercise our ability to fly in an unfamiliar place and think on our feet.”


The 58th Fighter Squadron B-Course students executed aerial refueling training missions during their time at MacDill.


“It’s not easy to get gas behind a KC-135, so we try to do that for our B-course class several times throughout their training syllabus and while they’re with us in the course,” said Freeman. “The better our B-course students can execute aerial refueling, the better our students will be when they get to their combat air forces squadron.”


Nomads with the 58th and 60th Aircraft Maintenance Units also traveled with the fighter squadrons to MacDill AFB and NAS Key West. 


“We can’t do our job without maintenance,” said Freeman. “They are watching over the jets, fixing them after we go and fly, working on all issues that come up, and ensuring we have flyable jets daily.”


Like the pilots, the maintainers also took the opportunity to train. 


“One of the things about maintenance being on the road is that they have a singular mission focus,” said Arthaud. “When you’re on the road, you don’t have the same support infrastructure you have at home. We test and build multi-capable Airmen attributes and skill sets for our maintainers on the road.”


The off-station training also served as an opportunity to promote good morale. 


“Everyone always has a good time on the road, so it’s also good for morale,” said Arthaud. “They can really get after the job and produce sorties, but it also gives them a chance to interact with ops in a way that they can’t always do back home, so they build those deeper relations and a stronger team.”


Airspace congestion also played a role in the planning of the off-station trainings. 


“February is a time of high airspace usage for the Eglin Range,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Charles Schuck, commander of the 33rd Operations Group, 33rd FW. “Both TDYs had an abundance of airspace with minimal constraints.”


The 33rd FW boasted a zero percent weather attrition rate while abroad, unlike the estimated 80 sorties that would have been lost at Eglin. 


“Zero percent weather attrition and zero planned sortie losses have enabled higher than normal B-course and TX-course sortie effectiveness rates,” said Schuck. “The successes realized during these deployments have proven crucial towards achieving on-time pilot flying training goals.”