The making of an A-10C pilot: "Graduation"

  • Published
  • By by Capt. Stacie N. Shafran
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
-- It was a celebration here Aug. 20 as 1st Lt. Dan Griffin, a pilot assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard's 104th Fighter Squadron and his 11 classmates became the Air Force's newest A-10C Thunderbolt II attack pilots.

Their afternoon graduation ceremony was held at the base theater in front of family, friends, their instructor pilots and teachers and base leaders. It culminated 27 weeks of some of the most intense training these pilots will undergo in their entire Air Force career.

Over the past six months the pilots were assigned to the 358th Fighter Squadron, as members of class 10-BBD, where instructor pilots taught them the basics about flying the A-10C.

This class also was the first to graduate as A-10C pilots. For the past 32 years, previous classes were trained in the A-10A. While the A-10A underwent upgrades throughout its life with improvements to its navigational system, bombing computers and digital countermeasures, the A-10C was the first upgrade extensive enough to generate a new model letter. These upgrades, along with the refurbishing of the A-10's wings, will contribute to sustaining the A-10 through 2028, long enough for these new attack pilots to keep flying it.

Graduation culminated 230 hours of academic instruction, more than 56 hours of simulator training, and 42 sorties and 88 hours of flight time. This course was their last step in the training pipeline, following undergraduate pilot training and a fighter fundamentals course.

For Lieutenant Griffin, this day symbolized the completion of a goal he's held on to for 28 years.

And, as all of the students would attest to, reaching this milestone wouldn't have been possible without the support of their family members and loved ones.

Lieutenant Griffin's parents, John and Noeleen; his sister, Sarah; brother-in-law, Ryan; uncle, Kieran; aunts, Karen and Maggie; friend Chris; and girlfriend, Amanda; all spent the weekend in Tucson sharing in the excitement. They also had the chance to see an A-10C up close and visit the 358th Fighter Squadron.

It didn't take me long, after spending some time around the Griffin family over the weekend, to realize this had become their goal as much as it was Lieutenant Griffin's. Their admiration and love for him radiated.

Having spent the past five months shadowing and reporting on this class, I also can say their success was attributed to the bond they shared with one another and their genuine desire to help one another succeed. Whether it was studying for tests, preparing for missions or making sure they all had something to eat between classes and flights, they showcased some of the best teamwork I've ever seen.

In fact, the squadron's leaders and IPs often commented, in comparison to previous classes, about the tremendous amount of camaraderie these 12 pilots shared.

With training complete, Lieutenant Griffin and his classmates are now bound for their first operational assignments and some may even see combat within a matter of months.

They are all well prepared, though, to take on future challenges. All have worked extremely hard and are fiercely dedicated and committed to the task of protecting this country's sons and daughters.

As I sign off, I'd like to say it was an honor and privilege for my staff and me to bring our audience this unprecedented behind-the-scenes perspective about A-10C pilot training. Sharing in this journey with Lieutenant Griffin and his classmates reinforced the many valuable lessons I've learned throughout my Air Force career: the importance of preparation, teamwork, hard work, pride and honor.

Most of us only will see the jets fly overhead, taxi down the runway or take off. This series, through stories, photographs and videos, offered a behind-the-scenes perspective into Lieutenant Griffin's life as he became one of the Air Force's newest A-10C pilots. The series can be found on

Upon his graduation, Lt. Griffin returned to the MDANG where he will continue his certification training.

Article edited from original format by Master Sgt. Lou DeVeaux, 175th Wing Public Affairs.