News: Into the wild blue yonder
Story by Airman 1st Class Betty Chevalier
DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. - The Military Personnel Exchange Program allowed a Sailor to switch places with an Airman, giving the Sailor a chance to experience the Air Force.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Eric Anderson, 354th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations, transferred from the Electronic Attack Wing Pacific at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., for a three-year tour at D-M.
"The 355th Fighter Wing sends an A-10 pilot from here up to Whidbey Island to fly [EA-18G Growlers]," Anderson said. "The Navy then sends a pilot down here."
Anderson explained this program has been around for more than five years. There are currently pilots from NAS Lemoore, Calif., flying F-16s and F-22s, while Airmen are flying F-18s. He even recalled an exchange where Whidbey Island received a B-2 Spirit Bomber pilot from Whiteman AFB, Mo.
Anderson had back to back deployments with each branch. In 2011, he deployed to Afghanistan with the Navy and then with the Air Force in 2012.
"I've flown over Afghanistan in an EA-18G and an A-10," Anderson said. "It was kind of fun to have back-to-back deployments both ways and see the comparison. My family wasn't thrilled with the time away, but it was a good experience."
In the Navy, Anderson most recently flew an EA-18G, an electronic warfare aircraft. Switching from this high-powered fighter jet to the slower A-10 was a huge difference.
"I have likened it to going from a BMW to a '64 Mustang, which is to say, both are super cool, but very different," Anderson said.
He explained the Growler is a supersonic aircraft designed for more air-to-air and electronic attack, while the A-10 is slower but is optimized for air-to-ground combat. He expressed that he has been continuously impressed with how advanced the aircraft is for its age.
He has learned the Air Force and the Navy have many different ways of doing things.
He explained that in a Navy squadron, all the enlisted members work directly with a pilot. This gives the young pilots a chance to gain leadership experience and learn what every member does in the squadron.
Of Anderson's 16-year military career, the last two have been at D-M. Upon completion of his tour here, in May 2015, he is scheduled to teach at the Air Force Academy in Colorado.