A Virginia Air National Guard pilot received the distinguished graduate award at the United States Air Force Weapons School December 16, 2017, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
Maj. “Sly,” 149th Fighter Squadron pilot, was recognized as the distinguished graduate for being the top performer in graded tasks and academic achievement.
The USAF Weapons School trains tactical experts and leaders to control and exploit air, space and cyber on behalf of the joint force. Every six months, the school graduates approximately 100 weapons officers and enlisted specialists who are tactical system experts, weapons instructors and leaders of Airmen.
“It is essentially a PhD equivalent for flying that specific aircraft [the F-22],” said Lt. Col. “Hawkeye,” 94th Fighter Squadron director of operations and 149th Fighter Squadron pilot. “It is very selective to even get in. It’s a six-month program that is considered the most difficult flying training probably anywhere in the world.”
Upon return to his squadron, Sly assumed the position of weapons officer for both the 94th FS and 149th FS which are active duty and ANG units respectively. This arrangement is possible due to the total-force integration of the 1st Fighter Wing and 192nd FW and showcases the resulting efficiencies at Langley as well as the impact the F-22 ANG pilots have on the Combat Air Forces’ warfighting capabilities.
“The weapons officer is the chief tactician for the squadron,” said Hawkeye. “[The weapons officer is] the most familiar with the latest tactics and directs the squadron in how best to employ this airplane [the F-22] in combat.”
Weapons officers also serve as instructors for their assigned units and are the Air Force’s institutional reservoir of tactical and operational knowledge.
“Maj. ‘Sly’ encompasses all of the traits that make a great weapons officer. His humble, approachable and credible outlook on each problem he takes on makes him the perfect fit as both the 94th and 149th weapons officer,” said Lt. Col. Michael “Bok” Schaner, 149th FS commander. “Being named the outstanding graduate of his class once again showcases the talent and amazing work ethic he brings to the fight as the tactical leader of the squadron.”
The 149th FS is the USAF’s premier F-22 air dominance and T-38 adversary air squadron. During the past year, the 149th FS and 192nd Operations Support Squadron, along with their 1st Fighter Wing counterparts, mobilized for six months to support Operation Inherent Resolve. During this deployment, they flew 534 F-22 Raptor flights, logged 4,600 combat hours and dropped 263 bombs, executing a critical role in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.