58 OG creates airpower by training special ops, CSAR Airmen in four states

  • Published
  • By John Cochran
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland AFB, N.M. trains Airmen to fly nuclear security, distinguished visitor airlift, special operations and combat search and rescue aircraft, from fixed-wing to tilt-rotor to helicopters.

Immediately under the wing is the 58th Operations Group, with five subordinate squadrons at Kirtland AFB and three geographically separated units at other bases.

The 58 OG trains specialized Airmen – pilots, combat systems officers, loadmasters, and special mission aviators (formerly known as aerial gunners and flight engineers) – who are ready for tomorrow’s fight, today. Nearly 1,000 personnel serve in the group, working in seven squadrons and two detachments. The 58 OG commands and supports training at three geographically separated units in Alabama, North Carolina, and Washington state. The group conducts all Air Force undergraduate rotary-wing flying training and graduate flying training for special operations, personnel recovery, nuclear security, and distinguished visitor airlift aircrew. Each year, the 58 OG conducts ground and flying training using 63 distinct syllabi, flying 23,000 hours, generating 11,000 student training sorties, employing 67 aircraft of eight different types and 30 simulators; ultimately producing 1,400 trained aviators annually.

The 23rd Flying Training Squadron at Fort Rucker, Alabama, is home to the Air Force’s only rotary-wing undergraduate pilot training program, flying students in the TH-1H Huey II. On June 22, 2021, seven officers made history as the first Air Force graduates of a helicopter-only undergraduate syllabus since 1993. Previously, students flew the T-6 in undergraduate pilot training before helicopter training. The  helicopter-only program, called “Helicopter Training Next,” is part of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) Pilot Training Transformation effort to stem the pilot crisis using innovation to improve pilot training and increase overall pilot production. The 23 FTS implemented the new program in just four months, garnering them the AETC General Larry O. Spencer Innovation Award for 2020.

The 58 OG Detachment 1, at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., conducts MV-22 Osprey basic aircraft qualification training for U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Japanese Defense Force aircrew, in partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204. The detachment trains student pilots in the fundamental aspects of MV-22 employment, and serves as the USAF and AETC operational-level execution agent for MV-22 issues. Det. 1 is the USAF focal point for development, transition and integration of the V-22 inter-service schoolhouse.

The 36th Rescue Squadron has operated the UH-1N Huey at Fairchild AFB, Washington, since 1971. The unit’s primary mission is to support the United States Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) School training through hands-on helicopter operations for more than 4,000 students per year. The squadron also plays an integral role in U.S. national civil search and rescue structure, having executed more than 700 saves in their 50-year history.

The five Kirtland-based squadrons follow:

  • The 512th Rescue Squadron trains students to operate the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter used for combat search and rescue missions, and the UH-1N Iroquois helicopter used for nuclear security and distinguished visitor airlift missions.
  • The 415th Special Operations Squadron trains students to fly the fixed-wing rescue HC-130J Combat King II and special operations MC-130J Commando II.
  • The 71st Special Operations Squadron conducts training in the special operations tilt-rotor CV-22 Osprey.
  • The 58th Training Squadron is responsible for ground-based, simulator and academic phase of training for 1,500 students each year.
  • The 58th Operations Support Squadron performs host aviation resource management, aerial delivery, aircrew flight equipment, intelligence, weapons and tactics, group training, and commander support staff functions.

Many 58 OG units have received awards recognizing superior performance at the Numbered Air Force command-level and above.

23 FTS:

  • Helicopter Training Next Team, 2020 AETC General Larry O. Spencer Innovation Award.
  • Destry Hill, 2020 AETC Civilian Flight Instructor of the Year.
  • 1st Lt. Phillip Strunk, 19th Air Force Rotary Wing Pilot High Flyer of the Year.
  • Tech. Sgt. Cheyenne Blaker, 19th Air Force Military Training Leader of the Year.
  • Senior Airman Jarret Manhart, 19th Air Force Mission Support Airman of the Year

71 SOS: AETC SOF/Mobility Squadron of the Year.

36 RQS:

  • AETC nominee for Outstanding Rescue Squadron, Jolly Green/That Others May Live Foundation.
  • Senior Airman Devin Hackney, 19th Air Force Rotary Wing Enlisted High Flyer of the Year.

The 512 RQS teamed with the 188 RQS, New Mexico Air National Guard and received the AETC General Mark A. Welsh One Air Force Award, given for mission success achieved by a team made up of two or more Total Force components. The award recognizes the team that best demonstrated improved effectiveness, operational readiness, and/or mission accomplishments through integrated solutions.

415 SOS: Maj. Matthew Single, Airlift Tanker Association Dutch Huyser Award for Outstanding Navigator.

58 TRS: Tech. Sgt. Travis Ackerman, Air Commando Association Leadership Award.

Col. Megan Ripple, commander of the 58th Operations Group, reflected on the unit’s resilience and ability to maintain and even increase student throughput during the global pandemic.

“The 58 OG has persevered through the constantly changing environment of COVID-19 and continued to produce consistently trained predictably delivered students despite these challenges. We were able to do this because of our fantastic people and our aircraft maintenance partners. Every member of our team is valued and everyone’s voice matters. We’re too small and have too much to do to squander our human capital. We never took our foot off the gas during the worst part of the pandemic and we have emerged stronger and better than ever. Chief Field, Chief Stewart and I are extremely proud of the work that was accomplished during this time, and we are humbled to serve this group,” she said.