Enlisted RQ-4 Global Hawk pilots train at Grand Forks AFB

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D.— Enlisted Airmen with the 69th Reconnaissance Group are scheduled to complete their final phase of mission qualification training to become RQ-4 Global Hawk pilots in early 2018 at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota.

Master Sgt. Chris and Staff Sgt. Matt, student pilots, are among the first enlisted members to become remotely piloted aircraft pilots since President John F. Kennedy took office in 1961.

“I’m happy to be a part of something new and exciting,” Matt said.

Chris and Matt applied in early 2016, which marked the start of their journey to become pilots.

The two were required to complete the computer-based Air Force Enlisted Pilot Qualifying Test and the Test of Basic Aviation Skills to ensure their qualification, as well as pass a medical evaluation and obtain a letter of recommendation from their commanders.

Upon meeting all of the requirements and being selected, Chris and Matt entered training at the beginning of 2017 in Pueblo, Colorado. They continued on to Beale Air Force Base, California, before arriving here in November to finish training.

“At Beale, they taught us how to fly the aircraft, and here they teach us how to complete the mission using the aircraft,” Matt said.

Due to a shortage of pilots and an increased demand for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, the Air Force widened eligibility for enlisted Airmen interested in the RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft program by opening the application process to Airmen from all Air Force specialty codes.

Chris, a career Airman with 16 years under his belt, was a firefighter and RQ-9 sensor operator before getting the opportunity to retrain to become a pilot.

“Never in a million dreams did I think 16 years ago that I would get this opportunity,” he said. “I’m proud to be able to do this.”

Matt explained how he thinks becoming an RQ-4 pilot is a great chance to challenge himself and make a difference, and encourages all Airmen who are interested to apply.

“You have to be self motivated,” he explained. “You need to come in to the career for the right reasons.”

The pair stated their choice to become pilots not only helps mitigate the critical manning across the Air Force, but helps the RQ-4 accomplish missions successfully at Grand Forks AFB.

Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force, explained how the mission is being met by widening the eligibility for Airmen interested in the RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely operated pilot program.

“The integration of enlisted RPA pilots into RQ-4 Global Hawk operations is part of a broader effort to meet the continual RPA demands of combatant commanders in the field, ensuring they’re provided with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in their areas of responsibilities worldwide,” she said.