LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Laughlin First Assignment Instructor Pilots (FAIPs) recently participated in the first FAIP FLAG white jet flying competition, August 9-11 2019, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Formerly known as “FAIPAPALOOZA,” FAIP FLAG was renamed to encompass the true spirit of competition and other FLAG exercises throughout the Air Force. This year’s event was hosted by the 14th Flying Training Wing, Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, and included over 185 instructor pilots and 82 aircraft from five Air Force pilot training bases. Many “old school FAIPs” currently back in Air Education and Training Command or flying other aircraft such as the B-2, U-2, F-35, C-130J, and HC-130J attended the gathering.
Lt. Col. Brent Curtis, FAIP FLAG 2019 project officer and commander of Columbus’ 41st Flying Training Squadron described FAIP FLAG as a “coordinated continuation training exercise to increase the flying and mission planning proficiency of FAIPs who are without a doubt the backbone of the Air Force's instructor cadre. This was accomplished through complex, cross-squadron, competitive events and allowed participants to experience mission planning and flying challenges not routine in the daily pilot training environment. Additionally, the weekend events provided a forum for pilot-training-wide cross talk to discuss lessons learned, and share best practices from the ever-evolving UPT mission.”
Besides the competition aspect of the weekend, Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, 19th Air Force commander and Brig. Gen. Matthew Isler, Secretary of the Air Force International Affairs regional affairs director, spoke at the weekend’s event providing FAIPs insight into senior leader perspective and priorities for pilot training.
Specifically for the competition, Laughlin competitors had a strong showing for the weekend, providing more than 25 percent of the aircraft and instructor pilots for the competition. Despite traveling the farthest for the competition and battling difficult weather, Team XL FAIPs finished second, only missing first place by 12 points.
Notable standouts, as highlighted by the competition committee were Capt. Bri Mets of the 86th FTS, 1st Lt. Shannon Hunter of the 47th Student Squadron and Capt. Thomas Takao of the 85th FTS, winning their respective aircraft specific competitions of simulated air refueling, total runway length and precision landing.
The weekend concluded with the presentation of the first Graziano Award, presented to a current FAIP at one of the primary pilot training bases. The Graziano Award memorializes the life, character and professionalism of Capt. John Graziano, an 87th FTS FAIP who passed away last year in a training incident here. Graziano represented FAIP qualities that are most valued and recognized by many current and old-school FAIPs.
Each primary UPT wing nominated one individual who best captured the values and characteristics set forth by Graziano. This year’s overall winner was Capt. James Bloch, from the 87th FTS. Bloch was humbled to be nominated and felt blessed to win the award. When asked what he thought about the award overall he stated, “John was an amazing man and IP, to be considered in the same breath as him is a compliment in itself, but also hard because John was a friend of mine. I am truly honored and humbled that my peers considered me for this award.”
FAIP FLAG 2019 and the FAIP MAFIA also donated more than $3,000 to the Capt. John Graziano Memorial Scholarship Fund at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Maryland.