JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA, –
Three Team Charleston pilots graduated from a six-month U.S. Air Force Weapons School (USAFWS) Weapons Instructor Course (WIC), at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) Nevada, Dec. 17.
Capt. Jeff Harnly, 16th Airlift Squadron (AS) evaluator, Capt. Matt Eggert, 16th AS pilot, and Capt. James Hall, 14th AS tactics flight commander, were among 120 graduates of the biannual course. During the program, the pilots also attended C-17-specific training at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, which is part of the WIC curriculum.
The weapons school teaches pilots to be tactical experts in their aircraft and joint war fighting as well as experts in integration across all platforms in the Air Force. Students also learn to train pilot instructors on tactical techniques they learned at the school.
“You’re doing something every day and there isn’t very much downtime,” said Eggert. "It is purposefully time compressed so you have to come up with your own solutions. Some of our days started really early and ended really late, so my wife and I didn’t get to talk very much. Or our schedules wouldn’t match and we wouldn’t talk for a week at a time.”
The Aircraft Gunnery School was established in 1949 at Las Vegas Air Force Base, now the USAFWS at Nellis AFB, to bring together a cadre of World War II combat veterans dedicated to teaching the next generation of pilots. Now, the mission of the USAFWS is to teach graduate-level instructor courses and provide the world's most advanced training in weapons and tactics employment to Air Force officers.
“Taking off in Colorado made all the planning worth it,” said Hall. “We had to be on oxygen masks because we were doing an airdrop above 10,000 feet. The aircraft was pressurized while we were flying between mountains upwards of 14,000 feet. It was the most fun I’ve ever had.”
The USAFWS is comprised of 18 squadrons, teaching 27 officer and enlisted combat specialties at eight locations around the country. The weapons school also addresses each of the 12 Air Force core functions, from Air Superiority to Rapid Global Mobility.
“Seeing other weapons officers go through the school and come back was really inspiring,” said Harnly. “I saw their motivation, expertise and everything else they brought back and it made me want to attend the school and strive to be my best. The motto of a weapons officer is to be humble, approachable and credible. I look forward to taking that and the other things I’ve learned and passing them on to the flight crews here.