LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas—First Lt. Zachary Turek, 86th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, was chosen by wing leadership to be the “XLer of the Week”, Sept. 2, 2019, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.
The “XLer” award, presented by Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, is given to those who consistently make outstanding contributions to their unit and the Laughlin mission.
A first assignment instructor pilot newly returned from Pilot Instructor Training, Turek’s leadership said he hit the ground running, building confidence and an instructor and having fun with his job.
“One of the most fun things for me is practicing simulated air refueling for the first time,” Turek said. “We fly 10 feet away from the other aircraft and the look on the students’ faces is priceless.”
Turek coordinated 37 unit standardization and evaluation monitor events to ensure the students stay on top of their general knowledge of flying and emergency procedure landing. For this, he administered 96 emergency procedure quizzes resulting in the student pilots gaining a firm grasp of what to do in case something goes wrong.
“My job is to prepare them to pass their check ride, which is like their final exam, with academic material,” Turek said.
Leadership also sees Turek as the personification of the “We Are Laughlin” attitude. Through walking around, checking on his teammates and genuine conversation, Turek builds connections and relationships with his fellow flyers. A stand-up first assignment instructor pilot, his unit chose him to represent the Lobos during the immersion tour for Air Education and Training Command’s newest commander.
“It was cool for us instructor pilots to be able to ask questions that might not have been brought up from leadership,” Turek said. “The highlight for me was hearing General Webb’s perspective as an Air Force Special Operations Command pilot.”
As a first-time instructor pilot, he is already on track helping his students fly to new heights of success with a 92-percent checkride pass rate. This was no small task as it involved more than 40 hours of instructing 16 student sorties.
“I’m thankful for my students,” Turek said. “They’re the reason I enjoy what I do and why I put in all the work I do. I’m thankful for my flight commander who’s always looking out for me and my flightmates and for my squadron commander who supports moral. I love coming to work every day, and I’m proud to be a T-1 FAIP.”
Leadership awarded the “XLer” of the week to Turek for the many hours he invested, both growing as a pilot and an instructor and how–despite his numerous secondary duties and flying–he still finds time to build camaraderie with his team.