Kingsley continues to expand mission set

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 173rd Fighter Wing has, once again, expanded its training mission, offering the Top Knife program to Air National Guard flight doctors. The Top Knife program allows flight surgeons to focus on the flying aspect of their profession. Flight doctors get the chance to climb in the cockpit of high performance jet and experience first-hand the physiological effects of flying.

This is not the first time this program has been taught at Kingsley. From 1990 to 2006 Kingsley Field was home to the Top Knife program. However, in 2006 the program suffered from lack of funding and other factors that essentially killed it.

Today, Maj. Eric Chumbley, an active-duty flight surgeon assigned to the 173rd Fighter Wing through fiscal year 2015, has resurrected the course. He cites a number of reasons the 173rd Fighter Wing is a natural fit for the program.

"There are not enough back seats in guard units to keep flight surgeons current," Chumbley says. "We have the tremendous advantage of having 12 back seat jets so there is almost always an opportunity to fly."

He goes on to say that in the past flight surgeons were able to keep up with their continuing qualifications, known in the community as readiness skills verifications, at a training program for medical folks called Readiness Frontiers. However the program ended last year due to the ubiquitous funding cuts in the Department of Defense.

"We've got the only Guard offering to be able to get a Guard flight surgeon up to date on his RSVs--that is part of our curriculum," said Chumbley.

And that training comes at a bargain price. By using annual training days and housing flight doctors in the troop dorm there is little cost to a unit beyond travel.

The curriculum is slated for one week and is structured to host 24 students annually. The first class was conducted over the April 9-10 Unit Training Assembly for flight doctors assigned to the 173rd FW. Future classes are flexible and will be scheduled in conjunction with visiting doctors, most of whom need to schedule around the needs of private practice.

The 173rd Fighter Wing is also home to the sole F-15C school house and F-15 Intelligence Fighter Training Unit course for the United States Air Force.