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What is the Weapons Instructor Course

Barnes Air National Guard Base, 104 Fighter Wing - Westfield, Mass -- Members of the 104th Fighter Wing deployed in November to Nellis AFB, Nevada to support the United States Air Force Weapons School. During this deployment, personnel supported the USAF Weapons School.

The U.S. Air Force Weapons School teaches graduate-level instructor courses that provide the world's most advanced training in weapons and tactics employment to officers of the combat air forces. Every six months, the Weapons School produces approximately 80 graduates who are expert instructors on weapons, weapons system and air and space integration. They deliver to their respective squadrons the latest tactics, techniques and procedures for air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. 104th pilots served as the (OPFOR) opposition force during the exercise.

The prestigious Weapons School began in the late 1940s as the USAF Gunnery School. This school was designed to teach air combat lessons learned and sought to improve pilots' aerial gunnery skills in the P-51, F-80, F-84 and F-86. Today, the Weapons School offers weapons instructor courses (WIC) for the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the B-1B Lancer, the B-2 Spirit, the B-52 Stratofortress, the EC-130H Compass Call, the KC-135 StratoTanker, the C-17 Globemaster II, the C-130 Hercules, the F-15C Eagle, the F-15E Strike Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Students are fully qualified instructor pilots and among the elite of their profession. During the course, they receive an average of 400 hours of graduate-level academics and participate in demanding combat training missions. The climax of the course is the mission employment phase, a two-week staged battle over the Nevada Test and Training Range. The students demonstrate their ability to manage a battle and effectively integrate multiple weapons systems. Upon graduation, the new weapons officers return to the field to serve as unit weapons and tactics officers, providing advanced instruction and technical advice to their commanders, operations officers and personnel. Graduates of the Weapons School are revered among their peers. Major Jared "Chowda" Conaboy from the 104th is currently in the Weapons School and scheduled to graduate this month.

104th pilots served as the (OPFOR) or opposition force. Captain Mike Dibrindisi, a resident of Leeds, who is the fulltime 104th Maintenance Squadron OIC, was selected as the Deployment Maintenance project officer. A veteran of several deployments, he was glad to support Nellis personnel during the exercise. "I was excited to deploy back to Nellis with the 104th and our F-15s. This is a great training opportunity for us while supporting the Fighter Weapons School and one of our own pilots, "Chowda," he said. "We worked some very long days but I proud of our people." added Capt. Dibrindisi.