When Col. Aaron “Marco” Redfern took command of 75th Fighter Squadron his immediate goal was prepping his unit for the first A-10 combat deployment to Turkey in over a decade
Flying an aircraft takes a skilled pilot. Flying an aircraft into combat takes real guts.
But leading a squadron of gutsy A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots it’s a whole different thing, as Lt. Col. Aaron “Marco” Redfern, 75th Fighter Squadron (FS) commander explains to Andrea Jenkins, Moody Air Force Base (AFB), in the article Shark 1:Piloting a Fighter Squadron.
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.
During that deployment 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 combat veterans ready for new challenges.
“I lead young people, who are already amazing,” said Redfern. “I’ve watched brand new lieutenants grow from wingmen to steely-eyed combat veteran instructors. I would say my major accomplishments as a squadron commander and pilot lies in their development and growth.”
Noteworthy, 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.
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. […] 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.”
Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan, Andrea Jenkins and Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf / U.S. Air Force
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com