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    Historic Elephant Walk at Sheppard AFB Highlights Training’s Importance in Airpower and Global Unity

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    On April 7, 2023, Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas witnessed a remarkable spectacle that underscored the significance of training and international partnerships within the United States Air Force. In an event described by Air Force officials as possibly the largest of its kind, 4,000 student Airmen from the 82nd Training Wing took to the runway alongside 80 training aircraft from the 80th Flying Training Wing for an “elephant walk,” a powerful demonstration of airpower and unity.

    The meticulously organized parade of 40 T-38 Talon and 40 T-6A Texan trainer aircraft, with the presence of thousands of Airmen, was not just a show of force; it was a reaffirmation of the Air Force’s unwavering commitment to delivering world-class training. Brig. Gen. Lyle K. Drew, commander of the 82nd Training Wing, emphasized the message behind the display: “The key to airpower is exceptional Airmen, and the key to exceptional Airmen is exceptional training. That’s what we do here at Sheppard, and this elephant walk was our message to the world that the U.S. and its international partners remain committed to delivering the best-trained Airmen in the world.”

    Sheppard AFB’s unique position as the hub for the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) program and as the domicile of the largest Noncommissioned Officer Academy further highlights the base’s critical role in molding Airmen proficient in various technical skills. The 82nd Training Wing alone graduates nearly 65,000 Airmen annually, making it the Air Force’s largest technical training wing.

    Moreover, the 80th Flying Training Wing carries the responsibility of forging key international partnerships, and training combat pilots from 14 NATO Alliance nations. Col. Brad Orgeron, commander of the 80th FTW, stated, “The fundamental technical and pilot training missions that happen here every day affect every base and every combat sortie in the Air Force – not to mention the impact on our global partners.”

    This awe-inspiring event at Sheppard AFB resonates with the strategic implications of similar demonstrations of airpower across the globe. An elephant walk conducted during Cope North 2024 highlighted the integrated deterrence among Allied forces in the Indo-Pacific and showcased the strength and preparedness of a coalition of 33 aircraft. SrA Robert Rennie, from Andersen AFB, reflected on the importance of such events: “The sheer amount of aircraft and the way our Allies and partners operate together with us is inspiring.”

    related images you might be interested.

    Pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings taxi F-35As on the runway in preparation for a combat power exercise Nov. 19, 2018, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. During the exercise wings confirmed their ability to employ a large force of jets against air and ground targets, demonstrating the readiness and lethality of the F-35 Lightning II. As the first combat-ready F-35 units in the Air Force, the 388th and 419th FWs are ready to deploy anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Cynthia Griggs)

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