419 FW puts on aerial display for collegiate aviation students

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Barker
  • 419th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

As hundreds of the best college aviators finished another day of competition at SAFECON, news spread among the competitors that the Air Force Reserve was bringing something for them to see. The air was buzzing with anticipation when two thundering booms echoed through the Oshkosh air. As thunder always follows lightning, two of the U.S. Air Force’s newest fifth-generation fighters, the F-35A Lightning II, appeared on the horizon.

After touching down, the roar of the engines drew a large crowd. Security Forces defenders, from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, took point forming a perimeter to secure the two F-35s from Hill Air Force Base. Eyes gazed as the pilots stepped out of the fighter jets. Aircraft maintainers rushed to complete their post-flight inspections and close-up shop as night began to fall. The crowd would have to wait to see the fifth-gen fighter the next day.

During the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s SAFECON competition, Airmen from a multitude of wings came together to provide a memorable air show for the competitors with aircraft displays, guided tours, and giveaways.  

“We have folks from all over the country. We have recruiters from Scott AFB, Illinois, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. We have general officers coming out of Scott AFB and Texas.” said Brig. Gen. Howard Clark III, the mobilization assistant to the director of Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, Headquarters Air Mobility Command. “Pilots and Airmen coming from Texas, Arizona, Utah, and all around the U.S. to be a part of this team.”

The F-35 was not the only aircraft being showcased at this aerial event. Davis-Monthan AFB was also able to send an A-10C Thunderbolt II. The ability to send multiple military aircraft was the result of hundreds of hours of planning and scheduling. From finance to mechanics, almost all aspects of the Air Force were involved.

“It’s a group effort,” said Clark. “Like we do for every mission; it takes all of us together, working as a team.”

As a team that had only met on emails and phone calls, recruiters, Airmen, and pilots all had to work closely together during the event. Their efforts were to showcase all the different opportunities students could have in the Air Force.

“I don’t have a background in aviation, so having an A-10 pilot standing next to me was really, really helpful to tell students what the pathway to becoming an officer may look like,” Tech. Sgt. Jarrad Lathrop, a recruiter with the 352nd Recruiting Squadron, said. “I love being able to utilize the resources of people who do know more than me and present the students with a different pathway to attain their goal.”

As the display of the two F-35 pulled in fascinated aviators, the 419th Public Affairs team gave guided tours to those interested in getting up close to the fighter. Meanwhile, enlisted and officer recruiters from Scott Air Force Base and Minneapolis spoke to students about the personnel behind the aircraft. In the background, maintainers were able to work together with a full span of Air Force personnel, both from their home base and others, to complete the entire mission smoothly.

“We had a mixture of Air Reserve Technicians, a Traditional Reservist, and Active Guard/Reserve on-site to support the F-35s,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Roberts, the F-35A Production Superintendent with the 466th Aircraft Maintenance Unit. “Our Active-Duty counterparts, the 388th Fighter Wing, are the ones who prepped the aircraft and launched them, and our ARTs were the ones to recover them when they returned to Hill, AFB. We even reached out to Madison Air National Guard, and they were happy to loan us a couple of items that we needed.”

Because of this unfamiliar trial, Roberts and his team faced some critical encounters as they worked as a skeleton crew. He added that the mission’s success was not only a testament to the application of Total Force Integration, but also the multi capability of the airmen.

“The ability to take a four-person team to support two F-35s with minimal resources was a great experience,” Roberts said.

A great experience not just for the Airmen, but for the students, staff, and spectators of NIFA’s SAFECON, as well. The Air Force Reserve successfully brought an airshow to this collegiate piloting competition demonstrating not only the U.S. Air Force’s most powerful aircraft but encouraging the future generation of aviators.

To learn more about becoming a pilotmaintainer, or one of the many other careers in the Air Force Reserve, download the AIM HIGH app to speak directly with one of our recruiter.