357th FS opens new building as first A-10C fighter squadron

Col. Kent Laughbaum (far right), commander of the 355th Fighter Wing, joins members of the 357th Fighter Sqaudron to cut the ribbon in front of their new operations building. The new facility now houses the first active-duty Air Force squadron to employ the new A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft exclusively. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jacqueline Hawkins)

Col. Kent Laughbaum (far right), commander of the 355th Fighter Wing, joins members of the 357th Fighter Sqaudron to cut the ribbon in front of their new operations building. The new facility now houses the first active-duty Air Force squadron to employ the new A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft exclusively. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jacqueline Hawkins)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- One of D-M's own units has something big to celebrate.

The 357th Fighter Squadron "Dragons" officially opened their new operations building with a ribbon-cutting ceremony held here May 18.

The building, which began construction in November 2005, houses the first active-duty Air Force squadron to employ the new A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft exclusively.

"The new facility will feature the latest technology to enhance pilot training in the more advanced A-10C," said Maj. Timothy Steffen, chief of wing scheduling for the 357th FS. "Digital and Hands On Throttle and Stick trainers are being installed to complement existing flight and simulator training."

With the help of these new technological advancements, Major Steffen said students will be better prepared for their complex flight training. "Graduates will then be more capable combat pilots," he said.

To facilitate the upgrade training, the squadron is expected to expand its number of aircraft from 23 A-10Cs to 30, along with the number of instructors, students and support staff, he added.

The new operations building was constructed to accommodate the current and future demands of the only A-10C fighter squadron.

"Beginning this summer, the 357th FS will offer the sole school house for all A-10C training, to include the training of all current A-10A pilots to fly the more advanced and complex A-10C," said Major Steffen.

Currently, the squadron conducts initial qualification training for pilots new to the A-10C aircraft, re-qualification training of previous A-10 pilots, conversion training of current A-10A pilots to the A-10C aircraft and instructor pilot training, said Major Steffen.

"The 357th FS is fully engaged in training A-10 pilots across the combat Air Force to effectively employ the new technology the A-10C Thunderbolt II offers, including Datalink and GPS-aided munitions," Major Steffen explained.

In addition to formal training, pilots are also prepared for their responsibilities while deployed. To prepare for combat mission-ready upgrades, pilots also train to plan, coordinate, execute and control day-and-night close air support, air interdictions and battlefield surveillance and reconnaissance.