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New RPA career field graduates first RQ-4 pilots

by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel
9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

1/19/2012 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- Two members of Beale Air Force Base were recognized as the first RQ-4 Global Hawk pilots in the new 18X career field during a winging ceremony Jan. 13 here.

Second Lts. Jacob and Scott began training Oct. 3, 2011, after a decision by Air Staff officials in June 2011 established undergraduate training for remotely piloted aircraft pilots across the service.

"It's history repeating itself to have our pilots ushering in this new time in our career field," said Lt. Col. Steve, the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron commander. "The 1st RS, previously the 1st Aero Squadron, was the first (flying squadron in history)."

The new classification 18X is designated for RPA pilots coming from non-rated career fields as well as newly commissioned officers. The commander said selection standards for this program are rigorous, to include physiological and academic requirements.

"With these pilots not coming from traditional training and not being experienced aviators, this is untested territory," the colonel said. "But the stringent requirements the Air Force has in place will ensure success."

The pilots will begin flying operational and humanitarian missions immediately in support of combatant commanders worldwide.

"We were told we were leading a newly edged sword into the Air Force and this has become a reality," Scott said. "It's a privilege to be the first in this platform at this capacity. I'm ready to become part of such an intense history and pave the way for the rest of the pipeline students."

Steve said the current plan is to convert all RQ-4 pilots to the new career field beginning with 40 percent of the trainees by the end of 2012.

"Based on the performance of these two Airmen, I have high hopes for the future of the program and the 18X pilots," he said. "It's bringing a youthful dynamic to the RPA program, which will bring it to new heights."



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