First combat systems officers graduate from training program

  • Published
  • By Maj. Rosaire Bushey
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs
Ten lieutenants, including nine active-duty members and one member of the Wyoming Air National Guard, became the first class of combat systems officers to graduate from the 479th Flying Training Group's CSO training program here April 15.

Previously, the Air Force had separate training tracks for navigators, weapons systems officers and electronic warfare officers. The CSO training program brought those three pipelines together to produce aviators with a common core of systems and employment knowledge.

"Today is a great day for our school, the CSO program and the Air Force," said Col. Travis Willis, the 479th FTG commander. "Hundreds of people worked very hard for a number of years to get the program to this point, and it's going to make a huge difference throughout the service."

To make the training happen for a full contingent of students, officials with the 479th FTG said they expect to be running 15 classes, composed of 27 students each, by summer 2011.

"Over the course of their 11 months here, our students train in weapons system employment and defensive threat reactions with integrated electronic warfare training and expertise," Colonel Willis said. "What that means is that a CSO is a universally assignable operator who has undergone some extraordinary training from flying to leadership to decision making. They've done it all."

The 479th FTG has more than 300 members, including 40 instructor pilots and 136 CSO instructors, as well as more than two dozen each of simulator instructors and instructor pilots, along with 125 aircraft maintainers keeping the unit's 43 aircraft flying.

Students are trained at the group's new $37 million, 58,000 square foot academic building, which houses multiple simulator platforms, including the T-1 Jayhawk and the T-6 Texan II. It also features a new 100,000-square-foot hangar complex. Flight training is done in the group's T-1s and T-6s.

"The training is incredibly intense," said 2nd Lt. Patrick O'Sullivan, a student in the program's second class that is expected to graduate in June. "The syllabus is rigorous and there's not really time to look around and enjoy the view, as it were."

Before students arrive in Florida, CSO training begins in Pueblo, Colo., with initial flight screening. Once at Naval Air Station Pensacola, students train for 210 days, including 55 simulator missions, 18 T-6 missions, 13 T-1 missions and three days of water survival training in the Gulf of Mexico.

After students graduate, they attend survival, evasion, resistance and escape training Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., before proceeding to their next base and more training on their specific weapons system.

"The CSO course isn't short and it's not easy," Colonel Willis said. "The men and women who make it through this course will have earned the right to wear their wings. There are now 10 commanders who are getting their first glimpse of the Air Force's newest warriors. I'm sure they'll be as pleased with their abilities as we have been."