54th ARS fuels the training mission at Altus AFB

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kenneth W. Norman
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
The major aspect of the mission at Altus AFB is training. Altus operates the only heavy mobility and air refueling schoolhouse in the Air Force.

One major component of the training mission here is pilot training provided by the 54th Air Refueling Squadron.

The 54th ARS is the sole Air Education and Training Command KC-135 Stratotanker flying training squadron and provides initial and advanced flight qualification. As the tanker Formal Training Unit, the squadron's mission continues to encompass the training of active duty, guard, reserve and international crewmembers.

"Initial qualification students are here for roughly five months," said Capt. Donald Abraham, 54th ARS KC-135 instructor pilot. "A majority of [the students training] is over at the schoolhouse and in simulators. Then they are with us for about three weeks."

"Initial qualification students get five rides and a check ride," Abraham said. "That includes formation flights, night flights and touch and goes."

During their check rides, student pilots are watched and assessed by the instructor pilots.

"Once you get in the jet it is a little bit different than the simulators, but not too much really" said 2nd Lt. Rudy Belew, Kansas Air National Guard student pilot. "The weather changes - in the simulator it doesn't - so it's a little different."

The 54th ARS instructors don't just teach brand new pilots, they also teach experienced pilots how to be instructors.

"When you come here for the instructor aircraft commander course, you get three rides and then a check simulator ride," Abraham said. "When you leave here you are capable of instructing everything you have been qualified on. It is really challenging because not only are you required to know something but you have to be able to provide that knowledge to someone else."

Abraham says the mission of the 54th ARS is unique in various ways.

"We have a unique mission and we are in an exceptional situation here in that every student is new to the information, so it is really fun to see the learning process," Abraham said. "Just seeing the coordination of the crew and everybody learning together is very characteristic of this base, so if you are able to see that and grasp that it's awesome."

Editors note: This is part 1 of a series about the different aspects of the training mission at Altus AFB.