Weapons school pushes pilots to the limit

  • Published
  • By Tyler Hemstreet
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force's weapons school was a lot to handle for Maj. Tony Carr and Capt. Brian Smith, 10th Airlift Squadron, and Maj. Phil Lynch, 8th Airlift Squadron. 

They routinely endured information overload during briefings. They flew C-17 Globemaster IIIs outside their comfort zones. And getting two hours of sleep a night wasn't an unheard of event. 

But each said they wouldn't trade the experience for anything. 

The pilots returned from the five-and-a-half month course in September with a renewed vigor for the C-17 and its capabilities, Major Carr said. 

The demanding course syllabus consisted of more than 300 academic hours, 140 flight hours and 24 aircraft sorties at a variety of different training locations across the country. 

The students went through six phases in the course, slowly building them up to integrated complex combat scenarios, said Lt. Col. Johnny Roscoe, 57th Weapons Squadron commander at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. 

Major Carr said he saw the course load as a challenge. 

"I saw it as a motivator and a way to help get to be the very best at what I do," Major Carr said. "To do that, I had to put myself in that environment and drink it all in." 

Each new exercise and test pushed each of the McChord-based instructor pilots to new heights. 

"It helped us see the full spectrum of some stuff we hadn't seen before and showed us that there are new ways to instruct our students," Captain Smith said. 

The course also provided new challenges each day, said Major Carr. 

"I was constantly discovering a whole new world [of what the C-17 can do] that I didn't notice before," Major Carr said. 

The course wasn't just about learning new maneuvers or opening each pilot's eyes to the full capabilities of the C-17, but also about learning how to communicate with other facets of the bigger Air Force mission. The integrated complex combat scenarios allowed C-17 pilots to work with other mobility aircraft, bombers, fighters, tankers, reconnaissance aircraft and several Special Forces and Army units on the ground. 

"Integrating with the other capabilities was key," Captain Smith said. "You had to be able to communicate and work in that team dynamic atmosphere because of the compressed time line given to plan each mission." 

"It wasn't really pilot training, but more like officer training," Major Carr said. 

By learning how to plan missions with other Air Force weapons, it put a critical focus on contingency planning because at any one time the mission factors could change, Major Carr said. 

The thrill from the course may be over for the time being, but each say they are excited to be able to show everything they picked up to the next generation of pilots each will train. 

"It's exciting for us to be able to come back and work at the unit level and instruct the instructors," Major Carr said. 

"It's only going to continue to grow," he said. 

And each hopes to foster further growth within their unit. Major Carr said he wants to serve as an example to the next generation of mobility pilots of how great the weapon school experience can be. 

"It's the toughest gift you'll ever get," he said. "I'd do it again in a heartbeat."