Sorties effect each and every Airman

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Christopher Anthony
  • 335th Fighter Squadron commander
As I drive onto the base each morning I take note of the sign detailing the number of sorties each of the fighter squadrons has flown.

This monthly count, tracking one of the wing's goals, is probably the only wing level metric that Airmen see around the base. If you are in the Operations Group, you are probably familiar with what these numbers mean and how they represent our progress toward meeting monthly flying goals. But what do these numbers represent to Airmen not directly connected to the flying operation? Does every Airman understand what the monthly sortie count means and more importantly, how each individual is connected to the 4th Fighter Wing's success?

Let me offer a short explanation for why we have the monthly numbers posted at the front gate. Each year, Air Combat Command funds the 4th FW's Flying Hour Program so that the Wing can accomplish two very different missions.

The first is to train all F-15E pilots and weapon systems officers in the Air Force. The two formal training units, the 333rd and 334th Fighter Squadrons accomplish that. Annually, these two squadrons jointly train 44 crews, ensuring that the Air Force's three F-15E wings are fully manned with combat ready aviators. This is akin to an Air Education and Training Command technical school delivering trained airman to the non-flying squadrons on the base.

Second, the 335th and 336th Fighter Squadrons are tasked with providing combat ready crews and aircraft ready to deploy and conduct combat operations on short notice. The recent ACC Phase I inspection was a validation of our ability to deploy, while the Phase II we are getting ready for next year will measure our ability to execute the flying half of our mission.

When the 4th FW is flying, it is in direct support of those two missions. Each and every day, the pilots and WSOs practice the very skills they will need if ordered to combat operations, skills that can be exercised in part in the simulators, but even better in the air under dynamic and challenging circumstances.

While that may seem distant from the daily work accomplished across the rest of the wing, it is both necessary and needed. The aircrews exercise their perishable skills just as the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron's firefighters practice entering a burning building to extinguish a fire, or the 4th Security Forces Squadron's Airmen practicing on the firing range.

Because of the 4th Operations Group's need to fly and train, there is the equal need for the rest of the base to accomplish their mission daily as well. If the gym or the military personnel section shut down, the Airmen in the 4th Maintenance Group that generate the F-15Es, as well as those who fly them, would be adversely affected, negatively impacting the mission execution.

So, back to the sign at the front gate; it is one way, a very visible way, we can measure completion of the two flying missions. The wing tracks the completion of sorties each month to make sure that we are training our aviators to the degree needed to ensure success on the battlefield. So, next time you see that sign as you enter Seymour Johnson AFB, take a look at the numbers. If you see positive numbers, you can be satisfied to know that your daily efforts are directly contributing to the crucial daily training needed to provide combat ready crews.