EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.– Nomads with the 60th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing traveled to the 366th Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho to conduct off-site training Aug. 14-25, 2023.
Mountain Home offers optimal weather conditions for flying, allowing the 60th FS to avoid seasonal lightning and hurricane delays.
“Taking the unit to Mountain Home provided our students a unique opportunity to train against some of the best surface-to-air threat emitters in the DoD,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Benjamin Broadhead, 60th FS instructor pilot. “This training helps develop the critical skills our pilots need to be successful in the F-35’s primary mission sets. Flying off station also gets our students, IPs, and maintainers accustomed to operating away from home where we have to tackle unique challenges we don’t face at Eglin and still operate at a high level.”
The Crows took 14 F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 60th FS to Mountain Home AFB to perform the flying-training mission in a combat-simulated environment. The Nomad team included four Transition-Course students and seven Basic-Course students all training for the Combat Air Forces.
“Up until this point in our training, we have done all of our flying [in the F-35A] in the Eglin Global Area, so being able to fly the jet somewhere new and see what it’s like flying somewhere that’s not home in an airspace with assets we’re not used to is a great way of expanding our horizons as pilots,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Alexander Shaw, 60th FS B-Course student pilot.
Along with avoiding home station weather attrition, this training allowed the 60th FS to catch up on pilot training and maintenance to test their capabilities to perform in remote locations with limited resources.
“Without maintenance, the mission does not happen,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Stephen Walker, 60th Aircraft Maintenance Unit debrief section chief. “We have to adapt to locations that don’t have the resources an F-35 location would. We are constantly adapting and learning how to utilize what we bring with us to solve any and every problem that arises. Accomplishing the mission in a TDY environment can be a struggle sometimes, but these situations make us more efficient and competent when we return to home station.”
The Nomads traveled to and from Idaho in a KC-10 Extender from the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis AFB, California, where they had the opportunity to watch the F-35A be aerial refueled. It is rare for maintainers to see the aircraft they work on in action.
“In maintenance, we always hear about aerial refueling going on, but getting the chance to watch the jet connect to the boom and bank off to finish the mission is a cool feeling,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cameron Klaffer, 60th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief. “Being up there with the jet that you crewed to get in the air and seeing it in action instead of just watching it take-off from the ground is rewarding.”
During their short time in Idaho, the 60th FS and 33rd Maintenance Group personnel conducted 177 effective sorties and flew 268.3 hours making this a successful temporary duty assignment for the Crows.
“This TDY presented many unique challenges we did not anticipate while we were planning it,” said Broadhead. “In spite of these, our ops and maintenance personnel showed a high level of athleticism getting the mission done, adapting to the conditions, and making sure the Crows had a successful TDY.”