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USAF Instructor Pilot Visits Tar River Comp Squadron

Capt Helm and cadet
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C/TSgt Jackson (left) and Capt Helm with the CAP Cessna. Photo Credit: 2d Lt Liz Dunster, CAP (click image to view full size)
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Captain Helm Talks About His CAP and USAF Career

10/9/2017––On Thursday, 21 September 2017, Captain “Hook” Helm of the 333rd Fighter Squadron, the “Lancers,” based at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, came out to the Tar River Composite Squadron to talk to the seven assembled cadets, eight senior members, and ten guests about his journey from CAP Cadet to F-15E Strike Eagle Instructor Pilot. He was invited by Tar River Public Affairs Officer 2d Lt Dunster after hearing his presentation at an Experimental Aircraft Association chapter meeting.

When he arrived at the squadron, the cadets were busy with CyberPatriot training. He saw the squadron’s Cessna outside and looked delighted. 2d Lt Dunster asked him if he wanted to go see it and off they went to look at the Cessna. 2d Lt Dunster said that it looked like being able to go out and see the plane brought back happy memories for Capt Helm. 
He began his presentation with what he had done before joining the U.S. Air Force. He was a CAP cadet from grades 7-12. He soloed a glider by age 14 and earned his Private Pilot’s Certificate by age 17 - citing his father’s crop dusting as the major factor in those achievements.
Upon graduating high school, he attended the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he earned a BS in Biology and earned a pilot slot with the Air Force. He then attended Initial Flight Training, previously known as Initial Flight Screening, where prospective pilots receive about 18 hours of flight training in a Diamond DA-20 over the course of four weeks. To attend this initial training, one need not have any flight experience beforehand, though he says that it certainly helps. Next, he moved on to the ENJJPT (Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program) stage of his training. This starts with academics, which covers physiology under the stresses of flight, the ejection seat, and aircraft systems. He and his fellow future pilots also got experience in the altitude chamber during this stage. Next, they received training in the T-6 Texan II. This is a fully aerobatic turboprop, and they get 125 hours of flight time in it before graduating on to either the T-38 “Talon” if they are on track to be fighter or bomber pilots like him, or the T-1 “Jayhawk” if they are going to be flying tankers or transport aircraft. He later added that the few prospective helicopter pilots fly the TH-1 trainer model of the venerable “Huey.” The T-38, much like the T-6, is a fully aerobatic trainer. Unlike the T-6, it is a supersonic jet. Those in the T-38 like him receive approximately 135 hours of flight time.
Upon completion of the ENJJPT, they receive their aircraft assignment and begin Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals where they are introduced to fighter aviation. There they also receive land and water survival training, and experience the “joys” of centrifuges. Then they join a formal training unit, such as the 333rd that Capt Helm instructs in, and begin their initial qualification training. This is known as the Basic or B Course. They receive 307 academic hours over the course of this phase of their training, along with 99 hours in simulators and 70 flight hours. Within seven flights they are qualified to fly an F-15. 14 flights are spent on air-to-air training, 13 flights on air-to-ground, seven flights for night flying, and three flights to tie air-to-air and air-to-ground. These cover topics including close-air support, deliberate targeting of ground targets, destroying anti-air assets, and counterair. Mission Qualification Training then occurs once they get into an operational squadron. He then went on to tell us all about the F-15E.
Capt Helm described the equipment in the front and back seats, along with the various weapons and targeting pods used. The front seat, where the pilot sits, has a Heads Up Display and less screens than the back seat where the Weapons Systems Officer sits. He recommended becoming a Weapons Systems Officer to those who are not medically qualified to become a pilot but still want to fly in a fighter aircraft.
The squadron was very happy to have him. 2d Lt Liz Dunster, Tar River Public Affairs Officer, said that she was “delighted to see how well Capt Helm’s presentation was received by our cadets, especially considering there are a number of them that have dreams themselves of becoming USAF pilots.”  She went on to say that “it made it all the more meaningful for them, that he was once a Civil Air Patrol cadet himself. We are so appreciative that he was able to take the time to visit our squadron and inspire our cadets.”  
2d Lt Nicholas Green, Tar River Aerospace Education Officer, said “It was wonderful to have someone as knowledgeable as Capt Helm is speak to our cadets about Air Force flight related careers. The cadets peppered him with questions about the education choices they should make to become an Air Force pilot. Capt Helm reinforced the desire and determination of those cadets intending to follow a U.S. Air Force career path to strive even harder to achieve their dream.”  
I personally saw a very enthusiastic response to his presentation from my fellow cadets, particularly those of us with Air Force aspirations. At the end of the evening Major Hess, the squadron Commander, thanked Capt Helm for coming to talk to the squadron, and presented him with a squadron patch as a token of our appreciation.