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Reserve pilots ensure Columbus AFB mission success

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephanie Englar
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Air Force reservists are an integral part of the Columbus Air Force Base mission of Producing Pilots, Advancing Airmen, and Feeding the Fight. They help ensure that annually over 400 students trained at Columbus AFB while more than 55,000 sorties are flown.

One squadron that contributes to these astronomical numbers is the 43rd Flying Training Squadron, which is home to more than 90 highly-experienced instructor pilots (full time and reservist part-time support) divided between five flights supporting the T-6, T-1, T-38 and Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals training programs.

"The 43rd FTS brings Columbus a total force program that fully integrates reserve and regular Air Force instructor pilot forces to execute the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training and IFF flying missions," said Lt. Col. Richard Briner, 43rd FTS Commander. "In the 2012 fiscal year, we executed 18 percent of the 14th Flying Training Wing's mission flying over 10,600 sorties."

Briner said that the 43rd maintains a highly experienced cadre of instructors with varied flying backgrounds across the full spectrum of Air Force aircraft.

"Most of our instructor pilots have many years of Air Education and Training Command instructor experience making our force highly coveted for seasoned expertise and relevant flight training," said Briner.

Two instructor pilots here have excelled in helping Columbus AFB "Produce Pilots" for the past 19 years and have had an influence on the 50th FTS, the 48th Flying Training Squadron and, lastly, the 43rd FTS.

Lt. Col. Michael Kendrick and Lt. Col. Barry Tye, both IPs from the 43rd FTS, are finishing off their Air Force careers after having flown over 4,000 hours in the T-1A Jayhawk.

"Kendrick and Tye are two tremendously talented instructor pilots and aviators who have almost 20 years of continuous AETC instructor pilot experience each," said Briner. "Along with passionate training, both pilots always maintained a great sense of humor, which kept morale at high levels in both the 48th FTS and 43rd FTS. Their contributions propelled squadron esprit de corps to new levels that have guaranteed the continued success of the 43rd FTS Firebirds."

They haven't always been here training student pilots though, their careers began at Williams AFB, Ariz. where they attended pilot training in 1991, just four classes apart.

"I was at Tye's assignment night," said Kendrick. "I remember him as the tallest guy in the class."

From Williams AFB their paths split and their careers took them all over the world. Kendrick went to Yokota AB, Japan to fly a C-130. For two years he flew repatriation missions with the United Nations into various locations in the Pacific. Meanwhile, Tye was flying missions with the United Nations out of Germany into Bosnia-Herzegovina in his C-130.

After those assignments, both pilots reunited at Columbus AFB as active-duty T-38 instructor pilots in 1994. A few years later, both had the opportunity to leave active duty and teach as reserve instructor pilots.

"It was great instructing and teaching the newest students how to be pilots and officers in the Air Force," said Kendrick. "I really loved the job so when the chance to join the Reserves opened up, I felt it was a fantastic way to continue serving my country."

Kendrick said that his family had great ties with the local Columbus community through sports and their church, and that is why they chose to stay here for 19 years.

"I owe a debt of gratitude to my family for all of their support and everything that they do and overcome," said Kendrick. "I know that my schedule has always been packed, and I'm grateful for their support."

Kendrick said one of the hardest parts of the job is "balancing just-right on a three legged stool."

He continued by saying that the three legs of the stool are: military job, civilian job, and taking care of your family.

Both Kendrick and Tye have been married to their wives for around 27 years each.

Tye said that serving as a citizen Airman in the Air Force Reserve Command is a privilege and an honor.

"We don't do the job any differently than active duty Airmen," said Kendrick. "We have a genuine passion for the mission and training standards."

Kendrick and Tye hold the record for the most combined hours for a two-ship formation ever flown out of the base with a combined 15,400 hours.

Overall, the two instructor pilots have flown over 8,200 hours in a T-1. Tye is ending his Air Force career at a total of 5,865 hours while Kendrick will end at 5,914.

"Their passion for flying, student instruction and their impacts on training are still evident in the 48th FTS and 43rd FTS today and will continue to be for many years," said Briner. "AETC and AFRC are losing two great officers, aviators and mentors--two great Americans and true patriots."