North Carolina-based Fighter Squadron Resumes Flying
By Airman 1st Class Brittain Crolley
4th Fighter Wing
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C., July 19, 2013 After being stood down for more than three months, the 336th Fighter Squadron here was given the green light July 17 to resume flying hours and get back to combat mission-ready status.
Air Force Col. Jeannie Leavitt, 4th Fighter Wing commander, signals her crew chief before taking flight at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., July 17, 2013. After being stood down for more than three months, the 336th Fighter Squadron was given the green light to resume flying hours and return to combat mission-ready status. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brittain Crolley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The decision comes from congressional action on the $1.8 billion overseas contingency operations reprogramming action that made peacetime dollars available. In mid-July, the Air Force Council approved the use of $208 million of those dollars to restore flying hours for affected units.
Sixteen fighter, bomber and airborne warning and control system squadrons that had stopped or curtailed flying were selected to resume operations.
"It was great to get the mighty yellow tails airborne again," said Air Force Lt. Col. James Howard, 336th FS commander. "The ground crews and the 75 folks in the squadron have been looking forward to this day since it started 100 days ago."
On April 9, Air Combat Command announced that approximately one-third of its units, including the 336th FS, would stop flying to ensure mission readiness of the remaining units that were supporting worldwide operations.
The decision not only affected the pilots of the 336th’s F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft, but also the maintenance crews assigned to work on the squadron's aircraft.
"When we found out we were getting stood down, we kind of just had to roll with the punches," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Flannigan, 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "There's not much you can do about it. You've just got to keep a positive attitude and do whatever you can to help the mission."
During the stand down, maintenance crews and pilots focused on training to help maintain their readiness. Airmen used a variety of resources, such as simulators, textbooks and computer-based training to help retain their skill sets.
Yet, hands-on experience is one of the most valuable tools these airmen have, Howard said. Because of the loss of skills from not being able to fly, he added, it will take three to four months for the squadron to get back to full mission-ready status and be capable to deploy.
For now, the 336th FS will work to shake the rust from their skills sets and get back to doing what they love to do -- their jobs.
"I can't wait to start flying regularly again," said Air Force 1st Lt. Andrew Olson, a 336th FS pilot. "It's going to be crazy to go back to how it used to be, flying three or four, maybe five days-a-week."
The resumption of flying hours represents the Air Force's commitment to combat readiness and mission support while also focusing on long-term budget concerns to ensure it remains the world's greatest Air Force.