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23rd FTS graduates 1st class of non-prior service students

Tech. Sgt Adam Davis (left), special missions Aviator instructor at the Air Force’s 23rd FTS, instructs Airmen 1st Class Connor Farrell (center) and Brandon Mathis, then-students in Class 16-06, on how to preflight the TH-1H prior to their first flight March 2. (Courtesy photo)

Tech. Sgt Adam Davis (left), special missions Aviator instructor at the Air Force’s 23rd FTS, instructs Airmen 1st Class Connor Farrell (center) and Brandon Mathis, then-students in Class 16-06, on how to preflight the TH-1H prior to their first flight March 2. (Courtesy photo)

Published: April 7, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 7, 2016) -- Three Airmen earned the honor of being the first service members coming right out of basic training to attend and graduate from the 23rd Flying Training Squadron’s Career Enlisted Aviation Rotary-Wing Fundamentals course on Fort Rucker.

Airmen 1st Class Adam Flaucher and Brandon Mathis, and Airman Connor Farrell, all special missions Aviators-in-training of Class 16-06, graduated from the course at the 23rd Flying Training Squadron Baker Auditorium on Cairns Army Airfield April 1 after two months of training.

“This is a milestone for CEARF, as this is the first graduation of our non-prior service Airmen,” said Tech. Sgt. Adam Stubbs, CEARF flight chief. “Traditionally, only Airmen with prior military or Aviation experience were allowed to cross-train into the special missions Aviator career field.”

The CEARF course began in 2013 as a means to train enlisted Aviators before they headed to Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. Before, these Aviators would arrive for the graduate training with no flight experience, resulting in a high washout rate, according to Stubbs. But those attending the course were required to have prior service experience, until Class 16-06.

“Now, Airmen fresh out of Air Force basic training come to Fort Rucker to learn rotary wing fundamentals, and our focus is on providing these Airmen with a solid foundation that they will continue to use throughout their flying careers, he said.”

Upon completion of the CEARF course, the Airmen then move on to Kirtland where they will attend CV-22 Osprey, HH-60G Pave Hawk, or UH-1 Huey graduate-level courses with the fundamentals they need to succeed.

“The Osprey and the Pave Hawk are difficult aircraft to operate and learn, and the attrition rate was about 50 percent for the CV-22, which is a very expensive aircraft to operate,” said Stubbs. “This course gives them the tools that they need to be successful in these more difficult aircraft.”

Throughout the training process, the service members start off with two weeks of academic studies where they learn about aircraft systems, parts-and-pieces nomenclature, weight and balance, and things of that nature, said Stubbs. They even test for motion sickness to make sure the students are able to handle the flights. They’ll then go onto simulator flights, followed by emergency procedures.

“Once they finish those flights, they will have a type of check ride that they must pass to be able to go into the next session, which is remote training,” said the flight chief. “With the remote training, we will take them away from the airfields and they’ll have to do scenarios to understand if they’ll be able to complete a mission with the resources they have.”

Mathis, who enlisted straight out of high school, said the training was no easy task and required a lot of situational awareness.

“One of the big things is when we’re landing, we have to be able to see what’s going on outside the aircraft, so we have to scan and see if there are any obstacles on the ground or any slopes. If it is unsafe, you call a go-around,” he said.

Other flights included practicing approaches, crew communication, running aircraft performance charts and calculating fuel requirements.

Learning these skills and being able to get a foothold in their career field isn’t just a benefit to the service members, but the Air Force, as well, said Stubbs.

“By the time these Airmen are staff or technical sergeants, they will be seasoned Aviators,” said Stubbs. “By giving them the tools to understand helicopter and tilt-rotor flight, they should all be well prepared for their graduate training.”

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