Each month here at Grande, we bring you several pages of a fashion shoot featuring clothing that can be purchased in the local area, modeled by residents of the community.
Typically, these shoots reflect the magazine’s theme.
For our May issue, though, which highlights Laughlin Air Force Base, we decided to showcase some of the many uniforms worn by the active duty personnel who work on base, from the pilots to the security forces personnel.
We worked with members of the 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs Staff, who asked several pilots to be interviewed and photographed for the issue.
The pilots they selected were Maj. Eli Prince, Capt. Alicia Leipprandt and 1st Lt. Cami Richan, all instructor pilots with the 85th Flying Training Squadron.
Members of the public affairs staff conducted an interview with the pilots, which we were unable to include in the magazine itself.
The pilots had many interesting things to say, though, and we wanted to bring you some of their words here.
Asked to describe her job, Leipprandt said, “As assistant flight commander, I’m kind of like the second tier of the flight commander, who oversees the flight. There’s a scheduler in the flight, who schedules all the flights, the USEM, which is pretty much the guy who teaches the students all the basic stuff about flying, and then the gradebook officer, who maintains all the pieces of paper that the students have to keep track of. I kind of help the flight commander oversee all of that.”
Leipprandt said the favorite part of her job is “to help the students go from not knowing how to fly to flying in formation by themselves.”
“When I was a student, I thought it was super rewarding to go up and fly solo, by yourself, and as an instructor, getting to see the students start from ground zero, going all the way to flying 10 feet from another aircraft is pretty cool,” she added.
Prince, an assistant director of operations, works directly for the director of operations for the squadron.
“I assist him with whatever he needs done. If there’s any last-minute tasker that pops up, he can assign that to me, and my job is to figure out how to make it happen. I also periodically provide guidance to flight commanders, AFCs (assistant flight commanders), really anyone who asks about any help or questions they may have with regard to their job because fairly recently I had their job, so I’m able to help out with most of the other jobs as well.
“Also, I help oversee the training flight, and what training flight does, is when we receive a brand new instructor pilot from pilot instructor training, they will fly in training flight until they are familiar with the local area, before they start flying with students. It’s called ‘theater indoctrination,’ so I help teach them how to teach,” Prince said.
Asked how he has grown as an officer from his time as a student to the present day, Prince said, “I guess starting as a student, the interesting thing about Laughlin’s mission, which is to train the best military pilots is that when you are here, the mission is you, and the point of being at Laughlin is to learn how to be a pilot and the basics of how to safely take off, land and learn how to fly off-station. In the case of T-1s, it’s also learning how to manage a crew, and in the case of T-38s, knowing how to do tactical things, and once you leave, ‘You’re a pilot now,’ and the real work begins.
“That’s where you learn to do a job bigger than just you. So in pilot training, the focus was learning how to be able to fly a plane, and then when I got to my first assignment, now I actually have to learn how to accomplish something. It’s no longer just about me. Now I need to learn how to, for example, drop some critical supplies in the right spot in a drop zone, so that, potentially, our brothers in the Army and Marines can get those beans and bullets they need downrange.
“So it was very rewarding to see all the stuff that I had just spent a year learning actually used to benefit someone else. . . Generally, as soon as you’re out of pilot training, it’s game on. You’re going to go and execute a real-world mission,” Prince added.
Richan conducts check rides for students.
“It’s a test flight, making sure that they meet all of the requirements needed to move onto the next phase of training,” Richan said.
“I like the fact that they’re really receptive to what you say after the flight. Typically when they go see us, they’re really, really nervous because they need to pass in order to move on, but after the flight, when you sit down with them, they’re really receptive to what you say and seem to value your opinion as they try and get better at what they do,” she said.
Richan said she enjoys seeing the various styles of leadership that will one day inform her own.
“Right now, I’m just focused on just being the best instructor pilot that I can be,” she said