CAF Day offers glimpse of future for pilots, maintainers Published Oct. 23, 2007 By John Ingle 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Undergraduate pilot training students at the 80th Flying Training Wing had an opportunity, Oct. 19, to get up close and personal with their future aircraft during the annual Combat Air Force Day. Capt. Jay Thomas, the event coordinator and an instructor pilot at the 88th Fighter Training Squadron, said CAF Day not only gives pilots the chance to view aircraft, but also to talk to those who have flown them in actual operations. The Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program's event offers a little more than those of other flying training bases, the captain said. "It feels like other bases have a panel of pilots who speak on the jets," said Captain Thomas, a graduate from the UPT program at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. "The information isn't real helpful in making a decision. The amount of information available here is greater." Not only is the event key in helping UPT students make an informed decision, but it also has its purpose for instructor pilots. He said current F-16 pilots can brief their colleagues currently serving as instructors on upgrades to the airframes and enhanced capabilities. For 2nd Lt. Kate Strickland, a native of Layton, Utah, and T-38C Talon student in the 80th Operations Support Squadron, she said CAF Day is definitely motivating, but she can't lose sight of her March graduation. "Right now I'm focusing on the [T-38]," she said. "I'm staying focused on what I'm doing now." But, that didn't stop her from revealing which airframes she'd like to fly following graduation. She said the F-16 or A-10 are tops on her dream sheet for flying assignments. Some, like Air National Guard 2nd Lt. Samuel Stephens, already know what aircraft they will fly once they've completed training here. The lieutenant said he will fly the F-16 following his April graduation. The best portion of the CAF Day, Lieutenant Stephens said, was briefings from pilots who have been in combat. He said hearing how they've assisted ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is what got him excited about moving on to a combat aircraft. "I think almost everyone here is excited about that," he said. 80th FTW and 82nd Training Wing maintenance students have been treated to aerial demonstrations in the past. Captain Thomas said those opportunities weren't available this year because of practice time by performers for Sheppard's Oct. 20 Open House and Air Show. But, that didn't take away the opportunity for them to climb in and out of various airframes. "The intent of static displays is meant for pilots going into those fields," he said. "It's a good thing for maintainers, as well." Pilots at the 80th FTW spent four hours in briefings Friday morning and then toured the static displays. Family members were also allowed to peruse the airframes.