ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Upon landing after a requalification flight, an F-15 functional check flight (FCF) pilot with the 339th Flight Test Squadron called his operations section to deliver a status update, only to find out that his squadron and group commanders were waiting for him at the hangars. With no additional information, he was left with his own thoughts for the reason of the unexpected visit.
As the F-15 pulled up, Col. Christopher Zidek, 413th Flight Test Group commander, stood there with a stern poker face. And after greeting each other, Zidek finally let up to reveal his true purpose for meeting Lt. Col. Terry Gable by congratulating and thanking him on a job well-done.
Gable recently returned from a deployment where he primarily worked out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, headquarters to U.S. Air Force in Europe and Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA). There, he served as the director of staff for the 435th Air Expeditionary Wing, the only U.S. Air Force wing with a presence in Africa.
Gable led Airmen from various career fields that ranged from administration to medical to security forces, with a mission to support joint and coalition partners at four bases in Africa.
“Basically, our day-to-day job was putting out fires,” Gable said. “Every day, you never knew what was going to happen. You showed up, and you find out what the next hurdle to the mission was … and our job was to eliminate those hurdles, so the warfighters don’t have to worry about any of the obstacles that should be taken care of behind the scenes.”
Originally, Gable’s assignment was scheduled for 90 days. But because of mission requirements and world events affecting military travel, it got pushed to 180 days and, ultimately, saw him gone for nearly eight months.
“Lt. Col. Gable is one of our top performers in the 339th,” said Lt. Col. John Lesho, 339th FLTS commander. “If I could have asked somebody, I would’ve asked Lt. Col. Gable. Luckily, I didn’t have to ask that question, because he volunteered for the deployment. When you have somebody like that who volunteers, it’s amazing.”
Gable served in the active-duty Air Force for 12 years before joining the Air Force Reserve in 2014. During his tenure, he’s been an instructor pilot, a flight leader and has even worked at the command-staff level. But this was his first time fulfilling a director of staff role. He said he believes he learned more during the few months of his deployment than he did during the 17 years of his career that preceded it.
Gable also said he wasn’t sure what to expect from the assignment initially, but once he settled into the position, he quickly learned that it would become one of his most cherished career highlights.
“What I found out was—it was predominantly taking care of our Airmen, and I love that,” Gable said. “That’s one of my favorite things to do—get to know somebody, get to know what their desires are and help point them in that direction. So there’s no better way to do that than to put your feet to the fire, learn all these different [air force specialty codes] and see our young Airmen grab hold of a mission.”
Now that he’s back at home station, Gable will return to supporting the FCF mission at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. Gable said he knew he missed flying, but didn’t realize exactly how much until he actually saw his name on the flight schedule.
His return couldn’t have come at a better time, Lesho said. One of the two pilots who maintained the 339th FLTS’s F-15 FCF mission while Gable was deployed recently left for England to help lead a safety investigation board for an F-15 crash that occurred earlier in the month.
Though happy to have him back home, leadership wanted to ensure Gable was properly acknowledged for the work he did with USAFE-AFAFRICA.
“One of the best parts of my job is recognizing the great people we have at the 413th Flight Test Group,” Zidek said. “I was thrilled to personally let Lt. Col. Gable know that we all appreciated what he did downrange and that his efforts didn’t go unnoticed.”