Air Force's 'youngest instructors' continue Academy's flying legacy

A U.S. Air Force Academy cadet departs a Twin-Otter jump plane from 4,500 feet above the academy during the during Airmanship 490 Basic Parachuting Course, an airmanship program where cadets earn their basic jump wings. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Uriah Orland)

A U.S. Air Force Academy cadet departs a Twin-Otter jump plane from 4,500 feet above the academy during the during Airmanship 490 Basic Parachuting Course, an airmanship program where cadets earn their basic jump wings. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Uriah Orland)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo -- Last spring, we celebrated the Air Force Academy's Class of 2015 graduation. These new second lieutenants now shape the future of our Air Force, just like their ROTC and officer training school brethren.

At the same time, overshadowed by the limelight of graduation, a small group of sophomore cadets attached to the 306th Flying Training Group celebrated their own milestone as they become the Air Force's youngest instructors.

Last spring, the 94th Flying Training Squadron formally recognized 82 Academy sophomores as fully qualified Air Education and Training Command instructor pilots during its annual G-Wings Ceremony. Shortly after, the 98th Flying Training Squadron held its annual Blue Suit Ceremony, honoring 26 sophomores who earned the right to be called AETC jumpmasters.

For these cadet instructor pilots, the G-Wings Ceremony marked the culmination of 10 months of rigorous training, including academics, 81 sorties and a formal flight evaluation in the TG-16A Mountain Swift, in which they were held to the same stringent standards as the squadron's rated officer cadre. As newly-minted instructor pilots, these young men and women joined upper-class cadet instructor pilots and will compete in more than 95 percent of the flying instruction for the Academy's soaring program.       
         
By the time of the Blue Suit Ceremony, the 98th FTS's new cadet jumpmasters completed academics, ground and wind tunnel training and 200 freefall jumps over the course of their sophomore year to become fully qualified jumpmasters. As with their glider counterparts, these new cadet jumpmasters will conduct the lion's share of instruction for the 98th FTS, conducting more than 98 percent of all basic freefall training at the Academy. 

Although the completion of their upgrade training was an incredible achievement, it's merely the beginning of something far greater. These new cadet instructor pilots and jumpmasters wield enormous responsibility as they instruct and lead the Air Force's youngest aircrew and their fellow cadets in a high-tempo, operational flightline environment. By doing so, they embody the Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.
  
Cadet instructors hold their students and peers accountable to flight discipline and standards, whether assessing grades, determining how and when to intervene in unsafe situations or making the call on whether or not a student is fit to solo or jump. Doing the right thing is not an option; it's a matter of life and death.   

Cadet instructors are fulltime college students with robust military and athletic obligations. The time they volunteer motivating and challenging their fellow cadets in airmanship epitomizes an intense devotion to service. 

During the next two years, these cadet instructors will be held to the same standards of excellence, whether on the ground or in the air, as any other AETC instructor.  

Though they are the Air Force's youngest instructors, they will undoubtedly rise to the challenge and continue the proud legacy of airmanship, leadership, and excellence that has long been ingrained within the 306th FTG.