MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
As part of a Total Force Integration initiative, an Air Force Reserve Citizen Airman attended the Weapons Instructor Course to deploy with his former active-duty squadron.
Captivated by the close-air support and combat-search and rescue missions of the A-10C Thunderbolt II, U.S. Air Force Reserve Maj. Matt Paetzhold, 76th Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II instructor pilot, joined the ranks of those responsible for effectively integrating multiple weapons systems across the land, air, space and cyber domains.
“As the weapons officer, he is the chief instructor pilot, instructor of instructors, and that’s a cornerstone, critical job in the squadron,” said Lt. Col. Sean Hall, 75th Fighter Squadron commander. “He sets the course for training in the squadron, looks into the future and says, ‘these are the things that we need to be good at and this is why it’s so important.’ If he didn’t do this, who would we have? We’re not fat on weapons officers, so he’s filling a critical billet that we cannot afford to have empty.
“He knows this squadron better than anyone. He’s extremely proficient and lethal in the aircraft and his experience is a priceless attribute for the 75th Fighter Squadron.”
With Paetzhold's background, Hall knew he found a great candidate to help bridge the gap for the 75th FS.
“He is the perfect fit for the 75th FS,” Hall said. “It doesn’t matter which (unit) patches we’re wearing because everybody knows what the mission is. Downrange, his challenges are identical to what an active-duty A-10 weapons officer would face.”
To fill the crucial role of the 75th FSs weapons officer, Paetzhold was first required to attend WIC and although he belonged to the 76th FS, it was the 75th FS, his former unit, who sent him to the esteemed school.
“My job was to learn how to be a better leader, be a better tactician, how to brief, plan, fly and debrief at an expert level,” Paetzhold said. “The WIC is filled with the best of their community, so you’re working with the top one percent of every [career field]. It’s just a different level of professionalism and expertise, which is what I’m trying to [cultivate] here.”
Even with approximately 13 years piloting A-10s, Paetzhold said he was impressed with the difficulty and knowledge provided by the WIC. The course is designed to mold Airmen into tactical experts in their combat specialty and teach them the art of battle-space dominance; all skills which would help Paetzhold with deployed duties like mission planning, briefing, executing, debriefing and integrating all joint aircraft.
“I’m more worried about, ‘how do we (become) more lethal?’” said Paetzhold. “’How do we get this bomb to split into three pieces and kill four (enemies) at once?’ I want to figure out those tactical problems.”
Paetzhold said he welcomes the challenges associated with his new position, and credits his WIC experience for added confidence in tackling these challenges.
“Five and a half months in this crucible, and it’s over,” said Paetzhold. “You’re glad that you’re out of the crucible, but you enjoyed the camaraderie, the tactical challenges and the relentless problems thrown at you. From start to finish, it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in the Air Force, for sure.”
Hall, who’s also a WIC graduate, expressed his confidence in the course, Paetzhold and the future of Total Force Integration.
“What (Paetzhold) brings, aside from his unique personality and his attack pilot mindset, is a long resume of experience in the A-10 and other aircraft,” Hall said. “I would recommend this (TFI) process be duplicated and I absolutely expect to see more situations like this.
“TFI is here to stay across the (Combat Air Force), because we need it. We’re stronger together. We leverage the experience and flexibility of TFI to remain prepared for a larger war.”