LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas--The roar of the F-35A Lightning II shook the entire flightline and everyone watching, as it soared not too far above, on Oct. 13, 2020, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.
Small groups of student and instructor pilots speckled far beneath, as an A-10 Thunderbolt II swooped in from the opposite direction, gracefully tilting side to side, like a deadly figure skater.
Maintainers and other base personnel turned skyward to see the unusual spectacle, on this otherwise ordinary training day.
The A-10 Demonstration team from Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, and the F-35 Demonstration team from Hill AFB, Utah, are touring the Air Force’s Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training bases to demonstrate their aircraft and to brief students in training on their capabilities.
“This is something we’ve been wanting to do for the students and instructors for a while,” said Col. Steven Behmer, 388th Fighter Wing commander. “We saw this as a good opportunity to not only educate the students on the capabilities of the F-35, but as importantly, have some younger pilots talk to them about the career they can expect if they are able to take the fighter track.”
Capt. Kristin Wolfe, F-35A demonstration team pilot, a Laughlin graduate of SUPT class 12-15, says she values the opportunity to visit students in pilot training.
“We hope this was an exciting, encouraging experience for all of the students,” said Wolfe. “Sometimes in [undergraduate pilot training,] it was difficult to determine what the actual day-in-a-life is like for pilots of the various aircraft communities. Our goal is to provide a fighter pilot perspective while also giving an overview of the jet’s capabilities to motivate future Air Force pilots.”
Second Lt. Steven Fleming, 47th Student Squadron student pilot, always wanted to be in the military, and found his home in the 159th Fighter Squadron, Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, Florida. Currently, he’s undergoing pilot training here and is set to fly fighters.
“The F-35’s and A-10’s that came to Laughlin gave me extra motivation,” Fleming said. “It reminded me I won’t always be here as a student, and seeing their performance gave me a tangible goal to keep working toward.”
Airmen--especially student pilots and instructor pilots--of Team XL appreciated the fighters' visit to Laughlin and seeing their demonstration. The students were able to build a more precise vision of life as a fighter pilot by talking to the pilots and taking part in the capabilities briefings.