Sheppard AFB ‘elephant walk’ asserts training’s role in airpower

  • Published
  • By George Woodward
  • 82nd Training Wing

Four thousand student Airmen from the 82nd Training Wing shared the runway with 80 training aircraft from the 80th Flying Training Wing in possibly the largest and most unique “elephant walk” in Air Force history – all to shine a light on the importance of training and partnerships.

“The key to airpower is exceptional Airmen, and the key to exceptional Airmen is exceptional training,” said Brig. Gen. Lyle K. Drew, 82nd TW commander. “That’s what we do here at Sheppard [AFB], and this elephant walk was our message to the world that the U.S. and its international partners remain committed to delivering the best-trained Airmen in the world.”

As home to three of the eight technical training groups in the Air Force as well as Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training, Sheppard AFB is unique in the Air Force. It’s also home to the service’s largest Noncommissioned Officer Academy.

“No other base could bring this many training aircraft and student Airmen to bear like this,” said Col. Brad Orgeron, 80th FTW commander. “The fundamental technical and pilot training missions that happen here every day affect literally every base and every combat sortie in the Air Force – not to mention the impact on our global partners.”

Leaders from the two wings planned the event as a message to friends and competitors alike that the U.S. and its allies remain committed to the legacy of unequalled training as the foundation of combat power.

“We want our allies to know that we are committed to and value our shared training experience with them, and we want our potential adversaries to know that we are bound together with our friends and partners from the very beginning of our military careers as we train side by side to defend our way of life,” Orgeron said.

It's also a way to highlight the immense strategic impact Sheppard AFB has on the Air Force and our partner nations, Drew added.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, and this elephant walk really illustrates the scope and magnitude of what we do here,” he said. “About 48 percent of all new Airmen are trained in the 82nd TW, in 55 career fields ranging from aircraft maintenance, logistics, civil engineering, nuclear operations, and telecommunications. Plus, we support students from at least 30 partner nations.

“Meanwhile, our sister wing at the 80th FTW forges key international partnerships as they train combat pilots for 14 nations of our NATO Alliance, five of whom only train fighter pilots here in Texas,” Drew said.

“Sheppard AFB is like the epicenter of a huge sonic boom that reverberates around the planet as we graduate nearly 65,000 Airmen annually and send them off to deliver combat power all over the world.”