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Sortie signals end of T-1A's CSO mission at Randolph

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The T-1A Jayhawk's combat systems officer training mission at Randolph is over, but the twin-engine jet trainer will play an even greater role at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., where the new generation of CSOs is being trained.

The T-1A's CSO mission at Randolph ended last week when a Jayhawk piloted by Col. Richard Murphy, 12th Flying Training Wing commander, and Lt. Col. Jay Fisher, 99th Flying Training Squadron commander, touched down on the east flightline the afternoon of Sept. 23, the last student sortie completed.

"Today we closed the Randolph chapter for CSO undergraduate training in the T-1A," Colonel Murphy said. "The training capacity we built at Randolph in the T-1A now transitions to NAS Pensacola, where we open a new chapter in the Air Force's CSO training program."

Second Lts. Conrad Ruiz and Michael Simpson, students assigned to the 562nd FTS, participated in the final sortie, honing their crew resource management skills and navigating in a low-level environment. As Lieutenants Ruiz and Simpson took turns handling high- and low-level navigation chores, the flight, which began at 8:30 a.m., took the aircrew north of Texarkana, Ark., to a low-level military training route in northwest Arkansas before landing in Fayetteville, Ark., for refueling.

"We used timing and our planned course, while accounting for wind, as our primary means of navigation," Lieutenant Ruiz said. "To supplement those techniques, we also used visual references such as bridges, dams, towns and radio towers."

Lieutenant Simpson said flying with Colonel Murphy was a great way to conclude his experience at Randolph.

"It is a strong and positive memory that I will remember from my training here," he said.

Lieutenant Ruiz said he "felt honored" to take part in the last CSO student sortie at Randolph.

"It was a great experience flying with the wing commander, and I feel like I was a part of history being the last student to fly at Randolph," he said.

Colonel Fisher said he and other 99th FTS members have enjoyed flying in the T-1A with Randolph's CSO students for the last phase of their navigation training here.

"It keeps us out of our normal student routine," he said. "It's also an opportunity for us to impart wisdom as the students go on to their follow-on assignments."

Colonel Fisher said the 99th FTS "has been proud to play an integral role in the development of so many new aviators in the undergraduate CSO program here at Randolph.

"While we will miss contributing to the UCSO program, we look forward to continuing to support the stand-up of the instructor CSO and instructor pilot cadre who will fly in the T-1A at Pensacola," he said.

Colonel Murphy said the T-1A will continue to play a huge role in Air Education and Training Command's CSO mission.

"AETC is modifying 21 existing T-1As for advanced training designed to build our CSOs' foundation in navigation, electronic warfare, weapons employment and air intercept operations," he said. "The future is bright for our Air Force and nation as we leverage new capabilities developing a CSO who can meet the warfighter's needs."

Both lieutenants called their CSO training intense but rewarding.

"It was a very long 10 months," said Lieutenant Simpson, who will leave Randolph for follow-on training at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., as an electronic warfare officer on an RC-135. "It was a course that challenged me in ways that I had never been challenged before, including personally and academically. There were many 12-plus-hour days for studying and mission preparation."

Lieutenant Ruiz, whose follow-on assignment is with the 52nd Airlift Squadron at Peterson AFB, Colo., said he is "relieved to be done with this phase of training and excited about what lies ahead."

"Throughout my training here at Randolph I know that I have learned valuable skills that I'll use throughout my flying career," he said. "The intense workload and long hours I've put in over the past 11 months will prepare me for how hard I'll have to work to be the best aviator I can possibly be."