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NEWS | Dec. 5, 2016

"IPs" for the 21st century Air Force

By Maj. Ernest L. Cage 11th Logistics Readiness Squadron

"IPs", or instructor pilots as they are referred to outside the U.S. Air Force flying world, are the most important mentors pilot-candidates will interact with during their quest to earn "silver wings." Only those pilots who have demonstrated an unequivocal mastery of flight are selected to return or stay on at the school house to shepherd future pilots through the unforgiving and, at times, perilous art of flight. IPs know regulations and procedures to the letter. They inspire and, for some, speak candidly about the hard realities of incompatibility. Most important of all the traits an IP possesses is image and attitude. Young, impressionable students are eager to find their place in the Air Force and everything from a unique swagger to the half roll of a flight suit sleeve will most likely be emulated.

We all serve a critical role in preparing our Airmen to be "combat aviators" as they navigate the evolving stratosphere of our 21st century air, ground, space and cyberspace force. As leaders it is our task to ensure our Air Force is prepped and ready to engage in a spectrum of operations that range from nation building in Afghanistan, civil operations in Africa, and deterrence operations in Iraq. We are immersed in all these missions while simultaneously prosecuting a campaign "in garrison" to abolish waste and improve legacy processes.

As an IP, your curriculum must contain such varied topics as continuous process improvement, physical fitness, basic combat skills training, current Air Force senior leader perspectives, and an intermediate understanding of the history and culture of the enemy. In 1780, General George Washington said, "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace." More than two hundred and thirty years later we are once again immersed in a long and critical conflict that demands every Airman be ready and capable to carry out his or her assigned tasking.

You will not have the luxury of a sterile classroom environment to explain and discuss these issues. The critical demands of executing and supporting the mission are too great. However, conversations during daily roll calls and candid discussions with your Airmen as you visit the flight line or hanger floor are excellent opportunities to seed thought and to stimulate fruitful synthesis. The learning model here is simple; your Airmen look to you for leadership and direction. Regardless of your rank, people are taking mental notes - take the opportunity to shape this cognitive discourse.

Lastly, it is inevitable that you will not fully agree with or, perhaps, comprehend the rationale behind every decision or initiative that the Air Force has undertaken, but this is normal. However, such inquiry must be reserved for respectful debate amongst the guarded confines of colleagues. Today's battlefield leader must step off the plane in step with goals of our Air Force, which require us to be confident, informed and in command. Your Airmen deserve this, and our Air Force and the Nation demand nothing less.

When the tasking drops and the combat orders flow to your Airmen, will they be ready to solo - to fly, fight, win and return to base with honor…America's finest Airmen are looking for a few good IPs.