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NEWS | Jan. 10, 2012

USAF Weapons School prepares pilots for wartime ops

By Senior Airman Anthony J. Hyatt Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

The U.S. Air Force Weapons School, stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, not only furthers pilot development, it also leads to achieving Air Mobility Command's mission of providing rapid, global mobility and sustainment for America's armed forces.

Recently, three Airmen from Joint Base Charleston graduated from the five and a half month combat employment and instructor development course, also known as the C-17 Weapons Instructor Course; Capt. Sean Huss, from the 14th Airlift Squadron, 437th Airlift Wing, Capt. Brian Thomasson, from the 14th AS, 437th AW, and Capt. Benjamin Wood, from the 17th Airlift Squadron, 437th AW.

The mission of the USAFWS is to teach graduate-level instructor courses that provide the world's most advanced training in weapons and tactics employment to Air Force officers. The Weapons School consists of squadrons at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., Hurlburt Field, Fla., Little Rock Air Force Base, Ariz., McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., and Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

"Charleston typically has one to two graduates every six months. This past class had three Charleston graduates," said Lt. Col. Anthony Carr, 14th AS commander. "Selection for this program is very tough and the program itself is among the most demanding in the Department of Defense."

To be eligible for WIC selection, an officer must be a C-17 Instructor Pilot with a very strong flying record, broad and deep operational experience and have strong endorsements from their commanders, according to Carr.

"In general, being a great pilot is not enough; the WIC selection board looks for evidence of exceptional work ethic and dedication to the Air Force's tactical mission. This means the candidate must have actively sought opportunities to plan, lead and support complex exercises and missions," Carr added.

"The C-17 Weapons Squadron, the 57th WPS, is at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., but is part of the USAF Weapons School at Nellis AFB. The training occurs not only at those two locations, but all over the country, to include Alaska, Colorado, Arizona, South and North Carolina," said Thomasson.

"The WIC is often described as a 'leadership course disguised as a tactics course'. The concept is to take instructor aircrew members and some other officers such as intelligence officers and provide even more training to make them further experts in their disciplines. The Weapons School then trains the students in the tactics and capabilities of the U.S. Air Force as a whole and how to integrate all of these capabilities to use them to defeat enemy systems and meet national security goals," said Thomasson. "All of the students go through academics together on a variety of subjects ranging from radar fundamentals, munitions, electronic warfare, enemy threat systems, etc."

At the school, Weapons Undergraduate Students are exposed to complex scenarios as part of a very structured approach to teaching specific weapons officer skills, according to Huss.

"After several months of academics and aircraft specific training, the students are presented with political and military scenarios where they must cooperate to plan and execute several large scale military exercises centered around each of their mission sets: mobility, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, special operations, strike, close air support, air superiority, etc.," added Thomasson.

After completion of the course, Airmen return to their duty stations with superior knowledge of how to fly and fight, integrate with other Air Force and joint capabilities and how to instruct training in weapons and tactics employment to any audience under any set of conditions.

"The WIC is important to the Air Force as a whole because it develops tomorrow's leaders today," said Huss. "Upon graduating, weapons officers are skilled at innovative employment of weapons systems and subject matter experts in their chosen fields."

With their newly gained knowledge, these pilots can now pass on what they have learned to their aircrews.

"I have a more detailed awareness of how the C-17's mission supports and enhances the Air Force mission as a whole, what capabilities the Air Force has, and how to better instruct aircrews to make them more capable and ready to defeat the threats they will face in combat," said Thomasson.

"Graduates have been core to the ability of the C-17 to meet and exceed combatant commander requirements over the past several years," said Carr. "The 437th AW is a large provider of C-17 airlift on a global basis, with crews launching from Charleston every day to complete combat missions around the world. At any given moment, one of our four flying squadrons is deployed to the CENTCOM AOR, where we provide the largest weight of effort of any mobility wing in the Air Force, including airlift and airdrop capabilities."