MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --
The U.S. Air Force’s undergraduate pilot training course is 52 demanding weeks. Some trainees don’t complete the course and some thrive.
Last year, the 167th Airlift Squadron sent 2nd Lt. Max Vickerman to UPT at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, and he returned in July with three top honors in his graduating class.
Vickerman was named the distinguished graduate and awarded the Air Education and Training Center Commander’s trophy. He also earned the T-1 Flying Training Award, which is based on academic scores, daily maneuver scores, category check maneuver scores and flight commander’s ranking.
Vickerman, who obtained his private pilot license prior to joining the wing, said he entered into UPT thinking he may be an average student and rank somewhere in the middle of his peers.
After settling into class, he said he realized he had too much of a mediocre expectation for himself. “I was able to excel because I really enjoy flying, I had fun with it and it never felt like work to me,” he said.
He also credits his success to Capt. Blake Terry, also a 167th AS pilot, who mentored him throughout his year-long training.
“Staying in contact with our UPT students is important to ensure they are doing well in training and are prepared to return home to fly the C-17,” Terry said.
Terry was also a recipient of the same awards as Vickerman when he graduated from UPT. In fact, two other 167th AS pilots finished at the top their UPT classes in recent years, Capt. Matt Fithian and Capt. Jeff Tipton.
“It is a testament to how well the squadron evaluates and prepares our pilot applicants,” Terry said. “We are super proud of Lt. Vickerman’s UPT performance. While graduating number one isn’t the goal, it certainly feels good to accomplish the challenging course while putting our best foot forward. The main goal is to give 100 percent, make our unit proud of our efforts, and help our active duty and [Air Force] Reserve counterparts graduate UPT.”
Lt. Col. Scott Frazier, the chief pilot for the 167th AS, said the squadron is looking for new pilots to hire.
“We are looking for only the most qualified individuals who can handle the intense training program of UPT, C-17 A school, and all the survival courses required to be a C-17 pilot,” Frazier said.
The 167th AS holds pilot hiring boards in October and April. Information to apply to become a 167th pilot can be found at www.167aw.ang.af.mil/Units/Careers/ .