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    Shark 1:Piloting a Fighter Squadron



    Story by Andrea Jenkins 

    23rd Wing Public Affairs

    Flying an aircraft takes a skilled pilot. Flying an aircraft into combat takes real guts.

    But if you want to know what it takes to lead a squadron of gutsy A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots - ask the 75th Fighter Squadron commander.

    “A good leader will keep our Airmen focused on the mission,” said Lt. Col. Aaron “Marco” Redfern, 75th FS commander. “When we’re tasked with doing things that are not primary drivers of the mission, it is the job of commanders to have the intestinal fortitude to accept risk, keep the focus on the mission, and protect the squadron from any fallout.”

    When Redfern took command two years ago, there was no time for distractions. His immediate goal was the mission and prepping his squadron of Airmen to go downrange for the first A-10 combat deployment to Turkey in over a decade.

    “When I took command, the immediate goal was preparation for an ever-shifting and changing combat deployment,” Redfern said. “[The squadron] developed a solid plan, which allowed my director of operations and I to step back and focus on removing obstacles for the squadron so that the plan they developed stayed on the rails.

    “Their amazing talent and ability to demand excellence of each other and to maintain that focus throughout the deployment enabled us to be more successful than I could have imagined,” added Redfern. “Especially given how young we were and how many first-time deployers we had.”

    The 75th FS saw major accomplishments despite severe weapons and parts shortages, flying 181 straight days without a missed mission.

    “Downrange, we delivered more ordnance than any A-10 unit since Desert Storm,” said Redfern. “The most publicized mission would have to be Operation TIDAL WAVE II, where my guys destroyed 389 Islamic State of Iraq and Syria oil trucks in two evenings. My pilots decreased ISIS daily oil revenues by 90 percent.”

    Redfern took an inexperienced squadron downrange and returned with a group of combats veterans ready for new challenges.

    “I lead young people, who are already amazing, intelligent Americans with unlimited potential,” said Redfern. “Developing the caliber of young officers that I am privileged to lead here is a unique experience. I have the opportunity to lead people that are way smarter and have way more potential than I did as a company grade officer. I simply help them realize what is possible and push them to look a little higher and farther than they may have thought possible.

    I’ve watched brand new lieutenants grow from wingmen to steely-eyed combat veteran instructors,” Redfern added. “I would say my major accomplishments as a squadron commander and pilot lies in their development and growth.”

    The experience he has imparted on the pilots he’s led has allow them to move into leadership positions at Weapons School, the basic flying course, as well as the Thunderbirds.

    “Lt. Col. Redfern truly cares about all of his Airmen with a genuine desire to see the growth both personally and professionally,” said Capt. Erik “Speedy” Gonsalves, Thunderbird #8 advanced pilot and narrator and former 75th FS pilot who deployed under Redfern’s command. “He consistently emphasized servant leadership. He would always tell me don't expect of your guys what you would not do yourself.

    “He was the kind of leader, that if given the honor of commanding a fighter squadron, I would aspire to emulate,” Speedy added. “Marco is a man, who has the aviation skills to back up his strong and passionate leadership making him credible in the jet, yet humble in front of his Airmen.

    Redfern believes the way to prepare pilots for future conflicts is to seek out opportunities to fly and encounter new tactical problems.

    “If you challenge your young pilots, they will never cease to amaze you with their ability to execute under pressure or to come up with elegant solutions to complex tactical problems,” Redfern said. “In addition, doing this helps give you a venue to teach them about critical thinking that will aid hem in the administrative aspects of their jobs. It boils down to pushing them out of their comfort zone.”

    As Redfern relinquishes command, he reflects on his time and the Airmen he’s led.

    “I’m unbelievably proud of what they have achieved in my time in the seat as Shark 1,” Redfern said. “Reflecting back to our inexperience levels in 2015 to where we are now with another very successful combat deployment under our belt makes me so proud.

    “I am most proud of the people I had the opportunity to serve as Shark 1. Their willingness to serve others and provide each other support in a myriad of ways and circumstances enabled our success and added to the proud heritage of the 75FS. They are the reason that I am wistful thinking of my time in the seat as a commander and realize that I will never have a job that compares to the one I currently have.”



    Date Taken: 05.11.2017
    Date Posted: 05.12.2017 15:43
    Story ID: 233687
    Location: MOODY AFB, GA, US

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