FASF Daedalians Attend HAFB Fighter Squadron Graduation

This month some of your old time FASF members, also members of the Society of Daedalians, attended the graduation banquet at Holloman Air Force Base (HAFB), Alamogordo, NM, to present the top leadership award to the graduating class, 17-ABH, of the 311th Fighter Squadron.

This was FASF Treasurer, Alma Villezcas‘ first visit to HAFB, and Flight Instructor Captain Cayce Wilkins arranged for her to have a personal trip to the operations Flight Line.  Her guide was a student, Lieutenant Nolan Kirkwood.  The aircraft in which the 311th graduates became qualified is the most maneuverable Jet Fighter presently in the Air Force inventory.  The F-16 Fighting Falcon, which its pilots prefer to affectionately call “The Viper,”  has been in action with the USAF for almost forty years, yet the Air Force expects its life to run another thirty some years.  If this goal is reached, the Viper will set an endurance record for any U.S. jet fighter ever in service.

While on the Flight Line, Lt. Kirkwood provided Alma with a set of ear plugs, to help mitigate the extreme noise of the Fighters engaged in operations.  Even with the ear plugs, the noise was almost painful.  The following photos were taken by the FASF, unless otherwise credited.  Click on any photo to view it in full high resolution.

L to R: 1/Lt. Nolan Kirkwood, himself a student F-16 pilot, explaining operations to Alma in front of a F-16’s left wing.

Alma wincing from the extremely loud noise of a passing F-16 jet. The Viper next to which she’s standing, is the F-16D, or two seat version used for preliminary training of its new pilots.  The regular fighter is a single-seat, or F-16C ship.

Alma (at left) listening to Lt. Kirkwood’s explanation of the F-16’s features, including its use of “Stabilators” instead of the more conventional horizontal stabilizer with its separate elevators.  The brightly colored Squadron insignia is on the afterburner’s ground cover, used to keep debris and birds out of the engine while the fighter is parked on the ramp.

Lt. Kirkwood and Alma watch a formation of two F-16’s entering the landing pattern.

Lt. Kirkwood finishes saluting the passing pilot, who is saluting him, as he returns to his hangar from the “Spouse Familiarization Ride.” This is the first time each of the spouses had been able to actually experience what it’s like to sit in an operating Viper as it taxied about the Air Base.  The spouses do not actually go aloft during their “rides,” because this would require they take concentrated ground training in emergency procedures before even being an airborn passenger.

Lt. Kirkwood describes the Viper-like shape of the fuselage’s flat like lifting surface design, which his left hand appears to be touching.

Alma and Ric Lambart pose by the Viper for Lt. Kirkwood, who shot the photo.  They are standing behind the nose cone of one of the Fighter’s auxiliary external fuel tanks.

Nolan and Alma share a hearty laugh . . . notice Lt. Kirkwood’s yellow earplug.  Their use is required when on the Flight Line.

An F-16 Viper takes off with full afterburner boost.

The Air Force Exhibition Team, the THUNDERBIRDS, on final fly-by pass in their Vipers.  The smoke is only for Air Shows.

The Thunderbirds seen in formation action. The above three photos are courtesy of the USAF.

Lt. Kirkwood shows Alma and Ric the latest “G Suit” each pilot must wear in order to help in high “G” (gravity force) maneuvers.  In high “G” turns and other abrupt maneuvers, the “G” force is so great, that the pilot’s blood, along with their bodies, become so heavy that the blood rushes to the pilot’s feet and legs, which may cause him or her to “black out,” which is the term used to describe the loss of eyesight experience, when the blood is too heavy to permit normal vision, as it leaves the eyes for the lower extremities.  This suit automatically inflates in high “G” maneuvers, squeezing the legs tightly in order to help prevent the wearer’s blood from rushing into his or her legs.  The hose protruding below Dolan’s left hand is connected to a compressed air port fitting inside the Viper’s cockpit.

L to R: Jenine Hemphill, Alma and Virg Hemphill at the social gathering before dinner.

Alma with the City of Alamogordo Mayor’s wife, Mrs. Kim Boss.

L to R: Alma, Captain Cayce Wilkins (HAFB Liaison Officer for the Daedalians), and Jenine and Virg Hemphill.

L to R: Jenine Hemphill, Alma Villezcas, Alamogordo NM Mayor, Richard Boss, his wife, Kim and Virg Hemphill.

L to R: Alma, Roger Nichols, Jenine and Virg Hemphill, all long time FASF members.

L to R: At rear: Alma, Lt. Col. Michael Driscoll, Commanding Officer (CO) of the 311th Fighter Squadron, Roger Nichols and, in front, seated, are Jenine and Virg Hemphill.

L to R: Roger Nichols, Flight Captain of the El Paso Daedalian Flight, and Virg Hemphill speaking with Lt. General Richard “Tex” Brown, USAF Retired. The General’s last post was as 2nd in Command (Vice Chief of Staff) of the United States Air Force. The General was once a fighter pilot, himself.  As guest speaker at the graduation, the General shared some of his own hair-raising combat experiences with the audience.

Lt. General “Tex” Brown speaking to the graduating class, their parents and guests.  Photo by Sgt. Chase Cannon.

Roger Nichols presenting the Daedalian Leadership Award to new graduate, Captain Chris “Romo” Luke at right.

L to R: Class Leadership Awardee, Captain Chris “Romo” Luke, Roger Nichols, Virg Hemphill and Ric Lambart.

Alma joins the happy group.

L to R: Alma, CO Lt. Col. Michael Driscoll, Roger Nichols, Jenine and Virg Hemphill.

General “Tex” Brown and Alma Villezcas.

L to R: Chief Sergeant Majors Dave Wade and Brian McRory, Alma, and HAFB Public Affairs Office Photographer, Sgt. Chase Cannon.  Chief Sgt. Major Wade is in charge of all the HAFB aircraft maintenance  facilities and operations.

L to R: Virg Hemphill, Ric Lambart and Daedalian Flight Captain Roger Nichols.  Photo taken by Alma Villezcas.

L to R: Ric Lambart, CO, Lt. Colonel Michael Driscoll, Roger Nichols, Virg and Jenine Hemphill. Photo by Alma Villezcas.

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