F-16 driver hits 1,000 combat hours milestone

F-16 driver hits 1,000 combat hours milestone

By Dario Leone
Mar 9 2018
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“Mach” flew all of his combat hours with the 77th EFS and no other pilot has ever done that

An F-16 pilot assigned to the 77th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (EFS) clocked 1,000 hours in combat on Feb. 28 during a mission in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.

“I believe there are roughly six F-16 pilots under the rank of colonel that have 1,000 combat hours,” said Lt. Col. James Buessing, 77th EFS commander, in Staff Sgt. Divine Cox, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW), article ‘Double Down’ pilot passes 1,000 combat hours. “The average F-16 pilot doesn’t even reach the 1,000 hour milestone let alone 1,000 combat hours, so yes it’s a huge deal that ‘Mach’ has reached this milestone.”

Most F-16 pilots do not go on three to four six month deployment, so reaching the 1,000 hour mark as a fighter pilot represents a significant career accomplishment. Even more so for “Mach” because all of his combat hours were flown with the 77th EFS and no other pilot has ever done that.

77th FS F-16 Print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-16CM Fighting Falcon 20th Fighter Wing, 77th Fighter Squadron “Gamblers”, SW/94-0044 – Shaw AFB, SC

“It is a true testament to the support my family gives me while at home and abroad,” said “Mach”. “Without the love and support of my wife and kids, I wouldn’t be able to reach this achievement. I am forever grateful to my wife for all her support and everything she does back home to allow me to serve my country.”

“Mach” logged his first combat sortie in 2011 in support of Operation Unified Protector, protecting NATO allied partners in Libya. Since then, he has “double downed” on two tours in Afghanistan and has compiled 177 combat sorties during his career.

“Mach” has been flying F-16s for more than 10 years.

“This specific tour has been especially challenging because my kids are getting older and it becomes harder and harder to leave them for extended periods of time,” said “Mach”. “They have been incredibly supportive, but they are facing their own struggles and I am excited to return home to mentor and support them.”

F-16 driver hits 1,000 combat hours milestone
“Mach” (center), 77th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter pilot, poses for a photo with members from the 77th EFS Feb. 28, 2018 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. “Mach” received a “Double Down” welcome from the “Gamblers” as he surpassed the 1,000 combat-hour milestone in the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Divine Cox / U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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