Off into the wild blue yonder: OSS Airmen take to the air

A T-38 Talon prepares for takeoff at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 28, 2021. The T-38 is used as a trainer aircraft for the B-2 Spirit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Devan Halstead)

A T-38 Talon prepares for takeoff at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 28, 2021. The T-38 is used as a trainer aircraft for the B-2 Spirit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Devan Halstead)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alana Mullins, a 509th Operations Support Squadron radar, airfield, and weather systems technician, prepares for a flight in the T-38 Talon at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 28, 2021. T-38 familiarization flights give non-flying Airmen hands on experience with the airframes they support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Devan Halstead)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alana Mullins, a 509th Operations Support Squadron radar, airfield, and weather systems technician, prepares for a flight in the T-38 Talon at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 28, 2021. T-38 familiarization flights give non-flying Airmen hands on experience with the airframes they support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Devan Halstead)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --

Less than 4% of active-duty U.S. Air Force members are pilots, however, it takes hard work and dedication from the other 96% to ensure the safety, readiness, and operability of a successful mission.

Not everyone gets a chance to take to the air, even in the world’s greatest Air Force.

In an effort to familiarize Airmen with the aircraft they support, the Air Force enacted Air Force Instruction 11-401 Flying Operations, which authorizes familiarization flights for Airmen with aviation-related responsibilities.

The 509th Operations Support Squadron offers these familiarization flights in the T-38 Talon, which is used as a trainer aircraft for the B-2 Spirit. The Airmen are paired with an experienced pilot and a chance to fly in the jet.

These flights give the Airmen insight on the vital role their jobs play in aircraft operations.

“The familiarization flights give my Airmen hands on experience with the effects of the G-suit and the importance of a properly fitted mask,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Matthew Heath, 509th OSS aircrew flight equipment commander. “It gives them tangible experience so when they are presented with equipment issues, they can use that experience in combination with their technical expertise and training.”

One of the Airmen fortunate enough to receive this opportunity was U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alana Mullins, a 509th OSS radar, airfield, and weather systems technician.

“The familiarization flight greatly broadened my understanding of my career field,” Mullins said. “It was especially enlightening to witness how the pilots use our equipment on their end.”

A random selection is made from those in the squadron who are interested in participating and those who are selected get the chance to fly.

“I consider myself extremely lucky since not very many people are able to get such an opportunity,” Mullins said. “I’ve always loved going on rollercoasters and the only thing better than that was flying in that jet. Now I'm just wondering, when I am supposed to get my very own call sign?”