355th FW turns in ‘legendary’ performance at bombing competition

A D-M A-10 flies away from the target area after a bombing pass during the Pioneer Air Festival competition held June 8 at Cannon Air Force Base. Six D-M aircraft participated -- representing all three fighter squadrons here -- and three took first place in at least one area. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Randi Flaugh)

A D-M A-10 flies away from the target area after a bombing pass during the Pioneer Air Festival competition held June 8 at Cannon Air Force Base. Six D-M aircraft participated -- representing all three fighter squadrons here -- and three took first place in at least one area. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Randi Flaugh)

A box truck plays the role of an enemy vehicle target during the Pioneer Air Festival air combat competition held June 8 at Cannon Air Force Base. The competition brought nine Air Force wings together and measured the accuracy and timeliness of weapons loading and bombing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Randi Flaugh)

A box truck plays the role of an enemy vehicle target during the Pioneer Air Festival air combat competition held June 8 at Cannon Air Force Base. The competition brought nine Air Force wings together and measured the accuracy and timeliness of weapons loading and bombing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Randi Flaugh)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Six D-M pilots took part in a bombing competition at Cannon Air Force Base June 8, and one pilot from each fighter squadron here - the 354th, 357th and 358th - took first place in the event's three fighter-aircraft categories.

The competition was part of Pioneer Air Festival, which took place in conjunction with the annual Pioneer Days public event in Clovis, N.M. It featured five types of aircraft from eight 12th Air Force wings, along with an MC-130 from the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., which dropped mock cargo instead of munitions.

The fighter jets, including F-15s, F-16s, F-117s and D-M's A-10s, all used non-live BDU-33 practice bombs and were scored on the same scale.

The first contest was "First-Run Attack Time on Target," and it measured how close the bombs' impact moment was to a targeted time of detonation. Only three of the pilots were able to detonate their bombs on the ground at exactly the right time. Maj. Colin "Rage" Donnelly of the 358th FS was one of the three, and he won the event. His bomb detonated within five meters of the target - a white box truck - which gave him the edge in the accuracy tiebreaker.

The next two contests were "Low Angle, High Drag," which required pilots to approach the target at a 10-degree descent angle, and "Low Angle, Low Drag," which required a 20-degree approach. Accuracy was the primary goal of each event. Capt. Joe "Rifle" Shetterly of the 354th FS won the LAHD event, with Major Donnelly taking second place and Capt. Steven "Roofus" Quick of the 357th FS earning third. In the LALD contest, Captain Quick took first place, and Captain Shetterly was the runner-up.

Maj. Jerry "Chewie" Cook, one of the participants from the 357th FS, said the events were very similar to the kind of training D-M pilots undergo every day.

"These are the 'bread-and-butter' events (for us)," Major Cook said. "The A-10 is designed to be extremely accurate in bombing and strafing. That, combined with our training regimen, makes us probably the most capable fighter aircraft in the combat Air Force when it comes to employing bombs."

Col. Kent Laughbaum, 355th Fighter Wing commander, attended the competition and called the D-M pilots' performances "legendary."

"In direct competition against the other fighter wings flying F-16s and F-15Es, we achieved victory in every event," Colonel Laughbaum said. "This type of performance brings pride to all who fly and maintain the Warthog and is a reminder of why the A-10 is so feared by the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Major Cook said that the 355th FW fighter squadrons don't often get the opportunity to work together on something of this magnitude, but he was thoroughly impressed by the teamwork exhibited by all the participating pilots.

"It was a total wing effort," he said. "Everyone had a role in the mission planning to make operations successful in the event. When it came to the execution, everyone did well.

"Personally, I cannot imagine a much better outcome for the wing."

Colonel Laughbaum also pointed out the efforts the crew chiefs who got the jets ready for their trip to Cannon. "Our maintainers worked long into the night to prepare the jets for the competition," he said, "and, in reward, their A-10s flew to perfection.

"I am very proud of the fighter pilots and the aircraft maintainers who contributed to this tremendous accomplishment."