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An Elephant Walk to Remember

An elephant walk — the Air Force term for a close formation of aircraft taxiing en masse before takeoff — is big by definition. But the one airmen recently conducted at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, was big even by elephant walk standards.

Oblique overhead shot of 80 aircraft in scattered rows of four on a runway.
Power Formation
Eighty aircraft participate in an elephant walk at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, April 7, 2023. Technical training students assigned to the 82nd Training Wing joined 80th Flying Training Wing 40 T-38 Talons and 40 T-6A Texan trainer aircraft on the runway to shine a spotlight on the importance of training as the foundation of air power.
Photo By: Courtesy
VIRIN: 230407-F-PI787-1001P

Trumpeted by the base's 82nd Training Wing as "possibly the largest and most unique 'elephant walk' in Air Force history," the event made for quite a photo op on the flight line.

Wide view of dozens of aircraft in formation on a runway.
Rocking the Runway
Eighty aircraft participate in an elephant walk at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, April 7, 2023.
Photo By: Air Force 2nd Lt. Marcus Ross
VIRIN: 230407-F-QA248-1008Z

 

It comprised 80 aircraft — 40 T-38 Talons and 40 T-6A Texans assigned to the 80th Flying Training Wing.


 

Four thousand airmen participated as well — students assigned to the 82nd Training Wing.

Wide shot showing dozens of airmen standing in formation on a runway.
Power Personified
Airmen stand in formation for an elephant walk at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, April 7, 2023.
Photo By: Airman 1st Class Katie McKee
VIRIN: 230407-F-PI787-1020R

The mammoth event wasn't just going for clicks and likes though. As home to three of the Air Force's eight technical training groups, its largest noncommissioned officer academy and the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program, Sheppard plays a pivotal role in training for the Air Force, as well as for partner nations.

"The key to air power is exceptional airmen, and the key to exceptional airmen is exceptional training," Brig. Gen. Lyle K. Drew, the 82nd Training Wing commander, said. "That's what we do here at Sheppard, and this elephant walk was our message to the world that the U.S. and its international partners remain committed to delivering the best trained airmen in the world."

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Want to know the origin of the term "elephant walk"? Check out this video:

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