LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — COVID-19 has impacted millions in their work routine not only in the U.S. but the world.
Here at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, Airmen do not go on as normal, yet they still work tirelessly to get the mission done.
Part of the mission is producing the world’s best military pilots who are to become the next generation of combat-ready aviators.
For Capt. Joshua White, 434th Flying Training Squadron X flight commander and instructor pilot, the biggest impact he’s seeing the Coronavirus take on students and instructors is in the ever-changing schedule.
“They are doing a good job staying flexible in this time of the unknown,” White said “However, we see the frustration when plans change weekly. It’s difficult for the students to implement what they learned from their previous flight, when flying every other day.”
Specialized undergraduate pilot training is already designed to be intense and stressful, added White, and the presence of COVID-19 takes that existing stress to the next level.
“Pilot training is inherently stressful as is, and COVID-19 definitely adds another layer--especially on a personal level,” White said. “We all have a friend or family member who is high risk and that concern plays into everyday life in pilot training.”
White empathizes with the students and other instructor pilots in the squadron and knows it has become more challenging to cope.
“Due to social distancing, we are not partaking in the social interactions that would normally help deal with certain issues that occur,” White said. “However, we understand the importance of reaching out and making every instructor pilot available to help with whatever issue is at hand.”
Even though support networks cannot gather in-person like they used to, the squadrons support one another even more during these trying times.
“Just like much of the world we feel like we are all in this together, and we are prepared to do anything we can to help the instructor pilots and students,” White said. “As a flight commander my main concern right now is to take care of my instructors and students. If they feel like we don’t care or if they are worried for their safety they will not be able to meet their full potential every day. We need them focused on safety and training.”
White sees the mission at hand acknowledges there will always be challenges.
“As far as we are concerned, we have been given our orders and this is just another challenge we have to step up to get the mission done, and I know we will overcome it without the sacrifice of safety or training,” White said.
In order to continue Laughlin’s flying training mission during COVID-19 safely, flying operations are proceeding six days a week with two teams who split those six days.
“This is ensuring that we’re able to max-produce the world’s greatest pilots, while making sure we protect our greatest asset, which is our Airmen and their families,” said Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing Commander.
Laughlin continues to produce top tier pilots, even with the preventative precautions in place such as social distancing, wearing masks and frequent disinfecting of facilities. Instructor pilot like White make sure this happens day in and day out.