Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea --
While most Wolf Pack pilots are assigned directly to one of the wing’s two fighter squadrons, some pilots are called upon to fill various leadership roles across the wing.
Such was the case for Maj. Houston “Meat” Pye, an F-16 pilot and the former 8th Fighter Wing chief of safety. Pye’s year with the Wolf Pack was his first year in the Air Force spent mostly outside the walls of a fighter squadron.
“I’ve had an awesome opportunity to learn a little bit more about all of the missions and functions that other units bring to the fight,” Pye said. “In a fighter squadron, we get so focused on our day-to-day job that we often forget there are thousands of people working all over the base to make sure we can get airborne every day and come back safely.”
Although a pilot might find themselves ‘assigned’ outside the fighter squadrons, he or she is still ‘attached’ to a fighter squadron and continues flying regularly. According to Pye, it was sometimes difficult to find the right balance between the demands of flying and the responsibilities he had as the chief of safety.
“I can tell you the hardest part about being attached to the squadron for me, was balancing my time at both locations,” he said. “Both the fighter squadrons and the safety shop needed me to be on my A game and prepared to execute the mission when I walked through the door.
“I was fortunate enough to have great teammates in both the two fighter squadrons and in the safety shop, who I fully trusted to get the job done when I couldn’t be there,” he said. “Having Airmen I could trust on both sides, allowed me to take care of whichever team had the most pressing need.”
Pye said his greatest challenge as the chief of safety was his first day on the job – the same day the wing lost an F-16 due to failed landing gear.
“To see the entire base come together as a team, to not only take care of our Airman, but to make sure we could investigate the incident and hopefully prevent it from happening again, was humbling,” he said. “Everyone from the comptroller squadron, logistics readiness squadron, both maintenance squadrons and civil engineering was incredibly helpful in getting us what we needed.”
When asked to sum up what he learned from his year at the 8th FW, Pye offered parting wisdom for all young officers across the Wolf Pack.
“For the pilots, as you continue to build your skills as a fighter pilot, don’t forget to foster your skills as an officer and a leader,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to reach outside of the fighter squadron to make connections.
“One of the best things I did here was get to know the great leaders we have on base, away from the flightline,” he said. “Fostering those relationships has helped me grow personally and professionally. Not only that, it has made me a better fighter pilot.
“For the lieutenants and captains not in the fighter squadrons, try to get out and meet a few of the pilots,” he said. “All of us love talking about flying and enjoy showing others what we do. The better we understand each other, the more ready we are to win. If we can each walk a day in another’s shoes, our whole team will be stronger.”
Pye now flies with the 309th Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.