By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
During phase two of primary aircraft training at Vance Air Force Base, students fill out what is known as a dream sheet.
On that sheet, students list whether they want to continue training in the T-38 or the T-1. T-38 pilots are in the fighter/bomber track, while those in T-1s are in the airlift/tanker track.
But they don’t necessarily always get their first choice, said Lt. Col. Andy Hamann, deputy commander of 71st Operations Group at Vance Air Force Base.
“It’s a merit-based system,” said Hamann of the process known as track select.
Students are ranked based on their academic tests, daily flight scores, check ride grades and the assessment of their flight commander.
“That’s based on their officership, their leadership, how well they work together in a class, how well they take instruction,” Hamann said.
All those factors are fed into a computer, which spits out the class ranking.
For each class, Air Education and Training Command headquarters in San Antonio sends out a list of the numbers of fighter, bomber, tanker and transport pilots that will be needed when the class finishes its advanced training, a process that takes about six months, Hamann said.
The higher a student ranks, the more likely it is he or she will be assigned to their track of choice.
“It depends on the needs of the Air Force,” Hamann said. “Based on where they are they get their first choice, or not.”
The majority of Vance’s nearly 300 instructor pilots have real-world flight experience in aircraft such as the F-15 and C-17. About six weeks before the end of primary aircraft training, students will attend a mission brief at which some of these IPs will tell students about their experiences in their previous airplanes. Hamann, for instance, now is a T-6 instructor, but previously was an F-15 pilot.
“I would spend about 15 to 20 minutes telling them about the F-15 or fighters in general, let them ask the questions,” he said. “A lot of times the spouses will attend so they kind of get an idea of not only what the mission of the airplane is, but kind of what the lifestyle is, what they can expect from a family perspective.”
After the mission brief, students fill out their dream sheets.
Those going into the tanker/airlift track will advance to train in the T-1A Jayhawk, a twin-engine medium range jet that is the military equivalent of the Beech 400A. A fighter/bomber track assignment means a student will train in the T-38 Talon, a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer.
But just because you are in one track or another doesn’t mean you will be assigned to a fighter or a tanker, said Hamann.
“We are having some guys who finish the T-38 get a tanker or a transport,” said Hamann. “Again, it’s based on the needs of the Air Force.”
To be assigned to the T-38 track, a student has to place high in his class rankings, Hamann said.
“Your overall score has to be above a certain level to go to the T-38,” he said. “We may have had some guys who finished 12, 13 or 14 who really wanted to go to a T-38, but they were either taken up by the folks ahead of them or they didn’t have the minimum threshold to go to the T-38.
“We’re not going to send a below-average student to the T-38, because they’re just not going to make it in the program.”
For Navy students, their track is determined by their service. The same is the case with international students, whose home countries determine their training track.
“The majority of the folks they send are going to fighters,” Hamann said of the international students training at Vance.
As a T-6 instructor, Hamann takes pride in seeing his students transition into the next phase of pilot training.
“It’s a neat experience,” he said. “It is a proud feeling.”ծ