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‘An exchange of ideas’: 306th FTG instructors visit French air force academy

Capt. Gabriel Paterson, flight commander for the U.S. Air Force Academy Flying Team, and Lt. Col. Abby Frander (right), commander of the 98 Flying Training Squadron at the Academy,  stand near a Cirrus SR22 aircraft with a pilot from the Ecole de l’Air — the French air force academy.  Cadre from the 306th Flying Training Group traveled to France in June to visit their French counterparts and share information about airfield operations and the Academy’s Airmanship Programs (Courtesy photo).

By Jennifer Spradlin, June 3, 2019

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. —  Instructors from the 306th Flying Training Group traveled to France last month to visit the French Air Force Academy, the Ecole de l’Air, and share information about airfield operations and the Airmanship Program here.

The reciprocal trip to in Salon-de-Provence comes after a contingency of French instructors visited the Academy last fall. Both academies use the same gliders and aircraft for powered flight and feature a jump program.

“It was a great experience to see how they teach their students,” said Capt. Gabriel Paterson, flight commander for the flying team. “Their program uses a lot of simulators for training, and we brought over some of the virtual training devices we are using here – so it was a good exchange of ideas.”

A significant difference between the two programs is the use of cadets as training instructors at the Air Force Academy.

“We use many of our airmanship programs as leadership development tools,” said Lt. Col. Rico Aragon, 306th FTG deputy group commander. “Cadets are the main force behind the instruction in our glider and jump programs, which is not the case in the French air force academy, and something they were examining to see if they could incorporate into their own programs.”

Members from the 306th FTG toured the airfield, gave a presentation on the Academy training program to senior French faculty and cadets, and flew alongside their French counterparts in formation above Southern France.

“Flying together was a highlight from the trip, establishing that camaraderie and enjoying the shared aviation culture,” Aragon said.

The trip coincided with the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, and the cadre observed many ceremonies and activities in an unofficial capacity.

The 306th FTG, and the 94th Flying Training Squadron, can be linked to WWII and D-Day operations specifically. During the invasion, the heritage unit dropped paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division into Normandy, landed their gliders behind enemy lines, and later dropped soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division into the Netherlands.

“We were sitting in a tent at the D-Day 75th Anniversary ceremony in Normandy, looking out over all the beaches, and one of the veterans leaned over and told me ‘that’s where I landed,’” Paterson said. “It was awesome and eye-opening to talk to them.”

Lt. Col. Doug Witmer, commander of the 94th Flying Training Squadron, fits a French Air pilot with training-simulator googles during a visit to the French air force academy in June. (Courtesy photo)