JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-Randolph, Texas – The 39th Flying Training Squadron Reserve Citizen Airmen took command of San Antonio military airspace to execute a training and readiness exercise called Cobras in the Clouds Oct. 29th at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.
The exercise gave 39th FTS members a chance to practice their wartime mission of taking control of the training mission of the 12th Operations Group. In the event that a real-world situation would result in all active duty pilots being recalled to their major weapons systems, Reserve pilots would take over the training mission to keep the pilot pipeline flowing.
The 2020 execution of this annual training exercise was also a chance to real-world test the fruits of the new Undergraduate Pilot Training 2.5 syllabus implemented at JBSA-Randolph about a month and a half ago to train student pilots, improve pilot training efficiency and throughput. UPT 2.5 takes advantage of newer technology such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence, as well as increased simulator time, to allow students to progress at their own pace.
“During this year’s exercise we had a chance to showcase the success of the application of UPT 2.5 here and reiterate to the active duty members that we can do this mission if called upon,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Lessner, 39th Flying Training Squadron commander. “While UPT 2.5 allows students to train in ways they cannot in the cockpit, we realize there’s no substitute for in-the cockpit flying, therefore we strike a balance between actual flying time and simulator flying time.”
“This exercise is just an acknowledgement of what happens every day -- Cobras work hand-in-hand, seamlessly, with the active duty units of the 12th Operations Group to build the foundation of the Airmen who will be the next generation of aviators for the Air Force,” he said.
Reservists are embedded in Total Force Integration roles throughout the 559th FTS and 12th TRS. Roles most recently taken on by Cobras include assistant operations directors, flight commanders, directors of transportation, scheduling, chief of innovation, and more. On the morning of the exercise every training flight, operations desk, supervisor position, and flight control tower was manned by a member of the 39th FTS.
“When an Airman flies with someone in a 12th OG airplane, they don’t know or care if it’s a reservist or an active duty member. What they want is the absolute best instruction, and that is what they get,” said Lessner.
Annually, the Active Duty and Reserve members of the 12th OG help the 12th Flying Training Wing produce more than 850 instructor pilots, 350 combat systems officers.
The day of training was capped off when the last aircraft landed at 1 pm. culminating the fini-flight for Lt. Col. Brian Sciantarelli, T-1 instructor pilot, who retired later that day after decades of service, including 20-plus years flying the T-1. The fini flight is a long standing Air Force tradition steeped in aviation history. The fini is an aviator’s final flight in their Air Force career, and is concluded with barrages of water and celebrations of champagne, tears and laughter.