Two Airmen, one dream: Two Robins officers selected for Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training program

  • Published
  • By Holly L. Birchfield
  • 78th ABW/PA
Two first lieutenants at Robins will soon take their Air Force careers sky high.

First Lt. David Pina, deputy program manager for the ALR-69A Radar Warning Receiver in the 542nd Combat Sustainment Group, and 1st Lt. Eric Florschuetz, chief of capabilities and integration in the 542nd Combat Sustainment Wing, are among the 50 officers Air Force-wide to recently be accepted into the Selective Undergraduate Pilot Training program.

The Specialized Undergrad-uate Flying Training Selection Board met at the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, Jan. 9-11 to consider active-duty Air Force applicants for Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training, among other specialized undergraduate programs.

The board considered 249 applications and selected 50 officers in the ranks of second lieutenant through captain to attend the pilot training, including sending 10 officers to Euro NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training.

SUPT is held at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss; Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Okla.; Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas; and at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla.
The 13-month intensive program includes four to six weeks of study in aerodynamics, aerospace physiology training, computer-based training courses and other related studies.

Lieutenant Pina said SUPT students will generally start their primary aircraft training in the T-6 Texan II. Students are then "racked and stacked" according to their flight abilities, academic scores and other factors.

Next, students' track selections are considered. The four tracks include the T-38 (fighter/ bomber track), the T-1 (tanker/airlift track), the UH-1 (helicopter track), and the T-44/C-12 multi-engine turbo-prop (C-130 track).

The age cutoff for the training program is 29. As a 30-year-old candidate, Lieutenant Florschuetz had to submit special paperwork to have his age waived by a Board for Correction of Military Records to gain eligibility for the program.

Lieutenants Pina and Florschuetz applied for the SUPT program in September of 2006. But their dreams of becoming pilots took flight long before their pens inked their pilot training program applications.

For Lieutenant Pina, it all began at age 4.

"I still remember the day it happened," he said. "I sat in the cockpit of an F-16 at an air show at Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal, which is right smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean."

Similarly, Lieutenant Florschuetz also had high hopes for a pilot career at a young age.
"My dad worked Sundstrand Aviation which makes different parts for civilian and military aircraft," he said. "Because of his career, he would take me to air shows every year, and that's where my interest in aviation all began."

Lieutenant Pina, a Valdosta, Ga. native, and Lieutenant Florschuetz, a Rochelle, Ill. native, both attended the Air Force Academy with their budding military careers steered toward the pilot career field. And both met a similar fate that detoured their pilot dreams.

The two officers each sustained injuries before pilot training that medically disqualified them from the pilot program.

With a bachelor's degree in engineering mechanics, Lieutenant Florschuetz was able to enter the engineering career field, which brought him to Robins. Before his current job, the 30-year-old officer worked in engineering in the 752nd Combat Sustainment Group.

After Lieutenant Pina's pilot slot fell through, he entered his first non-rated career choice, acquisitions, and came to Robins since he was already scheduled to come to the base on casual status under the SUPT program.

Years later, Lieutenants Pina and Florschuetz received the news that their aviation dreams weren't lost forever.

During their organization's weekly staff meeting Feb. 1, Jack Blair, director of the 542nd CSW, announced that the two officers were accepted into the year-long SUPT program.

"I've been hoping to hear this news basically ever since I got the slot taken away in the first place," said Lieutenant Pina. "I've been on cloud nine. I've been on top of the world since I heard the news."

Lieutenant Florschuetz had a similar reaction to the news.

"It was nuts," he said. "I was like, 'No kidding?' My brain was definitely elsewhere for the rest of the meeting, just trying to soak it in, you know."

Both officers said they're very appreciative of the support their Air Force leadership and families gave them that helped them reach the career milestone.

Colonel Lawrence Kingsley, vice director of the 542nd CSW, said he's proud of the two outstanding officers.

"This is one of those things where you're glad to see some of your best folks do well, and that happens to all of us, whether it's someone being promoted or you have a good subordinate that has been selected," he said. "You lose them and you're going to have to find someone else. These folks are hard-working, proactive officers. So that contribution will be missed."

The two lieutenants will start their undergraduate pilot training at one of the program's four locations in the near future.