AETC commander visits 479 FTG at NAS Pensacola

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  • 479th Flying Training Group Unit Public Affairs Representative

The commander of the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command, based at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, visited Naval Air Station Pensacola Feb. 4 and 5. 

Lt. Gen. Darryl L. Roberson is responsible for recruiting, training, and educating Airmen to deliver airpower for America. About 1,500 Airmen live and work near NAS Pensacola and many are students or permanent party members with AETC’s 316th Training Squadron, 359th TS, or 479th Flying Training Group.  

            Capt. Keith Hoskins, NAS Pensacola commander and Col. John Edwards, 479th FTG commander, greeted Roberson at Sherman Field. 

Edwards, along with Maj. Bradley Allen from the 359th TS and Master Sgt. Arin Drake of the 316th TS, provided Roberson a mission brief at 479th headquarters.

“I am astonished by the ongoing, high-technology and innovative training in flying, maintenance and cyber warfare,” Roberson said.

Next, Roberson toured the 359th TS, where students learn low observable aircraft structural maintenance, non-destructive inspections and aircraft structural maintenance.  Roberson saw first-hand how students learn to inspect and repair aircraft.

Tech. Sgt. Amber Spear, an instructor supervisor of NDI, said her section is responsible for training aircraft maintainers to find potential defects in Air Force aircraft. 

“We utilize cutting edge technology and ensure that our students are ready when they leave for their next unit,” Spear said. 

            Roberson then toured the 479th FTG, where 300 instructors train about 500 undergraduate combat systems officers daily, using 45 Air Force T-6 and T-1 aircraft.  The 479th FTG, made up of three squadrons, is the only unit in the Air Force that trains UCSOs. 

At the 455th Flying Training Squadron, the general met CSO students from Class 16-15, who are completing the primary phase of UCSO training. 

At the 451st FTS, he met the squadron commander, Lt. Col. Robert Johnson and was shown how the 451st FTS trains UCSOs in the advanced fundamentals of electronic warfare, navigation, weapons employment and sensor operations.

One tool the 451st showed Roberson was an aircraft sensor simulator members of the squadron built to train fighter, bomber, and special operations aircraft UCSOs on the operation of basic aircraft sensors.   

            “The innovation of our Airmen never ceases to amaze me,” said Roberson.  “The aircraft sensor simulator was incredible, and goes a long way towards training the position of the CSO.”   

            Roberson learned how the 451st uses a modified systems integration lab to upgrade new CSO instructors.  The systems integration lab provides ground training on the T-1A, CSO-modified Jayhawk. 

            “Since instructors arrive at the 451st from a variety of aircraft and duty assignments, such as electronic warfare officer, weapons system officer and navigator, instructors must first learn all aspects of the CSO career field.  The SIL allows me this capability,” Johnson said. 

            Roberson then visited the 479th Operations Support Squadron to learn about their special electronic combat training program.  SPECTRA, as it is nicknamed, is a program where instructors teach five undergraduate and graduate level courses, ranging from unclassified introductory courses on electronic warfare to highly classified planning courses.  Since SPECTRA moved to NAS Pensacola in 2010, more than 1,300 officers to include NATO members and international partners have graduated from the program. 

            Capping his visit, Roberson presided over graduation ceremonies for UCT Class 16-05 at the National Naval Aviation Museum.  The museum reminded the Air Force general of his personal connection with the Navy. 

Roberson’s father retired as a senior chief petty officer and now, years later, he was happy to participate in the ceremony, pinning wings on the Air Force’s newest aviators at NAS Pensacola. 

“The enemy fears our Air Force and the asymmetric power that you all will bring to the fight,” Roberson said.  “As you go out into the world, we need you to be good leaders. Those people who will be serving beneath you deserve your very best.” 

            For more information on Combat System Officer Training, visit