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Viper pilot graduates from 311th FS for the second time

Maj. David Abel, 311th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, left, and 2nd Lt. Sean Stegmoller, 54th Operations Support Squadron intelligence officer, right, display the 311th Fighter Squadron’s “Fangs Out” symbol during a familiarization flight, May 2, 2019, on Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Abel was assigned to the 311th FS for his F-16 Basic Course, and graduated from the 311th FS a second time after completing the instructor pilot course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs)

Maj. David Abel, 311th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, left, and 2nd Lt. Sean Stegmoller, 54th Operations Support Squadron intelligence officer, right, display the 311th Fighter Squadron’s “Fangs Out” symbol during a familiarization flight, May 2, 2019, on Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Abel was assigned to the 311th FS for his F-16 Basic Course, and graduated from the 311th FS a second time after completing the instructor pilot course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs)

Senior Airman Dennis Labayen, 311th Aircraft Maintenance Unit Dedicated Crew Chief, signals Maj. David Abel, 311th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, to park, May 2, 2019, on Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Abel flew the final sortie of his instructor pilot upgrade training, April 23, 2019, the first day of exercise Venom 19-01, and flew 2nd Lt. Sean Stegemoller, 54th Operation Support Squadron intelligence officer, in his first familiarization flight the last day of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs)

Senior Airman Dennis Labayen, 311th Aircraft Maintenance Unit Dedicated Crew Chief, signals Maj. David Abel, 311th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, to park, May 2, 2019, on Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Abel flew the final sortie of his instructor pilot upgrade training, April 23, 2019, the first day of exercise Venom 19-01, and flew 2nd Lt. Sean Stegemoller, 54th Operation Support Squadron intelligence officer, in his first familiarization flight the last day of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs)

Maj. David Abel, 311th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, exits his assigned F-16 Viper after a familiarization flight, May 2, 2019, on Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The 311th FS deployed to Hill for exercise Venom 19-01, April 22 - May 3, to perform dissimilar air combat training with the F-35 Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs)

Maj. David Abel, 311th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, exits his assigned F-16 Viper after a familiarization flight, May 2, 2019, on Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The 311th FS deployed to Hill for exercise Venom 19-01, April 22 - May 3, to perform dissimilar air combat training with the F-35 Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs)

Maj. David Abel, 311th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, and 2nd Lt. Sean Stegemoller, 54th Operations Support Squadron intelligence officer, pose for a photo after Stegemoller’s familiarization flight, May 2, 2019, on Hill Air Force Base, Utah. During exercise Venom 19-01 FAM flights were given to operations and maintenance personnel to educate them about their impact on the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs)

Maj. David Abel, 311th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, and 2nd Lt. Sean Stegemoller, 54th Operations Support Squadron intelligence officer, pose for a photo after Stegemoller’s familiarization flight, May 2, 2019, on Hill Air Force Base, Utah. During exercise Venom 19-01 FAM flights were given to operations and maintenance personnel to educate them about their impact on the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs)

Maj. David Abel, 311th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, and 2nd Lt. Sean Stegemoller, 54th Operation Support Squadron intelligence officer, walk across the flightline, May 2, 2019, on Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Abel flew the final sortie of his instructor pilot upgrade training, April 23, 2019, during the first day of exercise Venom 19-01, and flew Stegemoller in his first familiarization flight the last day of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs)

Maj. David Abel, 311th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, and 2nd Lt. Sean Stegemoller, 54th Operation Support Squadron intelligence officer, walk across the flightline, May 2, 2019, on Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Abel flew the final sortie of his instructor pilot upgrade training, April 23, 2019, during the first day of exercise Venom 19-01, and flew Stegemoller in his first familiarization flight the last day of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs)

Maj. David Abel’s, 311th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, name is displayed on the canopy of his assigned F-16 Viper, May 2, 2019, on Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Permanent party personnel assigned to the 311th FS are honored with their names on an F-16 after they are assigned to the squadron. This is Abel’s second time being assigned to the 311th FS, the first as a student pilot and the second as an instructor pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs)

Maj. David Abel’s, 311th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, name is displayed on the canopy of his assigned F-16 Viper, May 2, 2019, on Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Permanent party personnel assigned to the 311th FS are honored with their names on an F-16 after they are assigned to the squadron. This is Abel’s second time being assigned to the 311th FS, the first as a student pilot and the second as an instructor pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --

As the old cliché goes, ‘it’s a small world and it’s an even smaller Air Force.’ This weathered phrase proved true for Maj. David Abel, the 311th Fighter Squadron’s newest instructor pilot.

On April 23, 2019, the opening day of exercise Venom 19-01, Abel flew the final sortie of his instructor pilot upgrade training.

“It was nerve wracking, it was (like drinking from a firehose),” said Abel. “It was great to get it out of the way and get it done. I landed on my first day of flying at Hill and they said ‘you’re good,’ and that was just a huge load off my chest. I’ve actually been able to enjoy the temporary duty assignment.”

Becoming an F-16 Viper instructor pilot was a long journey for Abel. His initial assignment upon graduation of pilot training was as a First Assignment Instructor Pilot for the T-6 Texan II.

“As a FAIP you serve 3 or 4 years in your assignment, competing for your next assignment,” said Abel.

Abel said he had his eye on the F-16 for his next assignment, and through hard work and dedication he achieved his goal.

“Have you seen (the F-16),” exclaimed Abel. “It is highly maneuverable, it’s going to be around for a long time and it does every mission. To me it’s the end all be all. They’re the backbone of essentially any fight we would go into.”

After being selected for his first choice of airframe, Abel was assigned to the 311th Fighter Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, for his F-16 Basic Course.

Abel said he was assigned to the 311th FS while it was being stood up. He and his classmates helped renovate the squadron building and build many of the facilities that are still being used today.

“Things our class did in the squadron still make an impact; the heart and soul that we put into it (can be seen) right off the bat,” said Abel.

After his assignment at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Abel returned to the 311th FS to once again to train with the Sidewinders as an instructor pilot student.

“I’m the first B-Course graduate out of Holloman to come back as an instructor pilot and graduate out of the same unit,” said Abel.

As a newly graduated instructor pilot, Abel has the opportunity to train tomorrow’s warfighters.

“It’s not about me anymore,” he said. “I get to help bring new pilots up and build on their experiences. It’s very humbling, and I’m glad I get to pay that back.”