A Weapons Officer is a leader of men. He is the leader of today’s and tomorrow’s Air Force, the tactical center of gravity within a squadron, the chief instructor pilot (IP) and the force around which squadron members will rally. Simply put, a Weapons Officer is the keeper of what the fighter pilot world holds sacred.

While he is the best pilot in the squadron, you wouldn’t know it from simply talking to him as he is humble. This humility is often misunderstood by naysayers and is not truly understood until they fly with the Patch and get their hearts cut out and asses handed to them in a matter of seconds.

The Weapons Officer is credible in that he is either the squadron subject matter expert for most topics involving the employment of Air Force assets as instruments of war, or he knows where and how to find the answer. He knows his limitations and never puts out bad information when he doesn’t know the correct answer. Rather, he will tell the questioner that he will have to get back to them.

"Double," an instructor pilot at the USAF Weapons School, straps into a Block 40 F-16CG in preparation for a syllabus ride at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
“Double,” an instructor pilot at the USAF Weapons School, straps into a Block 40 F-16CG in preparation for a syllabus ride at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

Because he knows folks will lose faith if they constantly hear this answer, the Weapons Officer stays in the books, keeping current and credible on topics that pertain to his squadron’s DOC statement. He knows that, from the moment he first walks into the squadron, he has credibility due to his association with the hard work of others who wore the patch before him. He knows that he can lose this credibility in a heartbeat by being or acting like a doofus or by being dishonest.

A Weapons Officer also needs to be approachable. He can be the best pilot, the ace of the base, and have all of the knowledge in the world. If, however, he is an ass and his fellow pilots don’t want to go to him for instruction and information, it will be a waste.

Finally, a Weapons Officer never gives up. He knows that it isn’t over until it is over and fights tooth and nail during all phases of a flight (planning-execution-debrief) to ensure success. He knows what it means to be beaten from his time at weapons school, as well as the sting that goes along with defeat, and does his best to prevent experiencing it again. He knows how to get up when he has been knocked down, brush himself off, and get back in the fight. He does this because he knows that eyes are watching to see how he will react and deal with adversity.

Japanese Air Self Defense Force Lt. Col. Miyake Hideaki, 306th Tactical Fighter Squadron commander, and U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot, 67th Fighter Squadron commander, shake hands during a press conference on Komatsu Air Base, Japan, Dec. 7, 2013. Both squadrons participated in a week-long bilateral Aviation Training Relocation Program hosted by the JASDF 6th Wing. The program emphasized interoperability training between U.S. and Japanese forces, while promoting operational readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber E. N. Jacobs)
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Morris “Moose” Fontenot, former 67th Fighter Squadron commander, and a 2004 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber E. N. Jacobs)

Most importantly, however, is the fact that a Weapons Officer inspires. Flight leads inform, wingmen do, instructors instruct, but a Weapons Officer inspires. He inspires pilots in his squadron to do the best they can. He breaks down what seems to be complex into simple understandable tasks that, when executed with expertise, seem like magic. He is the one who always seems to get the job done no matter how difficult the situation. He is the one who fellow pilots want to be on the wing of when the shit hits the fan because they know that their Patch will get them in and get them out–all while handing the enemy his ass.

If a Weapons Officer is worth his salt, squadron members will bust their butts to make sure that, whenever the Patch is watching, they are showing out, for fear that if their performance isn’t up to snuff they would be letting him down. When the Patch is talking, they are listening–for he is the instructor of instructors.


In the next installment, we take a look at the Patch’s role and place in the squadron. Stay tuned!!