Date: May 8, 2006
About: Bruce Shipp - Class of 1981
By Steve Eighinger
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Maj. Bruce Shipp and Lt. Adam Hafez are bookend members of what is arguably the world's most elite jet pilot training program - and both proudly claim Quincy as their hometown. In fact, some members of their families have known one another for 40 years.
"But I had no direct contact with Adam until he got here," said Shipp, who has served as one of Hafez's instructors.
"Here" is Sheppard Air Force Base near Wichita Falls, Texas, home of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program. ENJJPT is the world's only multi-nationally manned and managed flying training operation, producing combat pilots for NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Shipp, 42, will soon retire after a 20-year career in the Air Force, a tenure that saw him be part of the first wave of attacks in the initial Gulf War. He flew 29 missions over Iraq.
Hafez, 26, has been at Sheppard for 14 months and is beginning to grasp onto what it entails to be one of the best of the best. Shipp has no doubts Hafez will uphold the tradition of this proud program.
"On Adam's first solo, he was on my
wing," Shipp said. "He's going to do well."
NATO is an alliance of 26 countries from North America and Europe committed to fulfilling the goals of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty, which was designed to safeguard the "freedom, stability and well-being" of those nations.
All member countries that participate in the military aspect of the alliance contribute forces and equipment, which together constitute the integrated military structure of NATO.
The ENJJPT Wing - as it is referred to in flight circles - is part of that unique structure and was established in the 1970s in the spirit of NATO. It has been headquartered in the United States for almost 30 years.
ENJJPT has a U.S. Air Force commander and a German Air Force operations group commander in the top two leadership positions. Command and operations officers' positions in the flying training squadrons rotate among the participating nations.
Officers from all 13 participating nations fill subordinate leadership positions throughout the wing. Six nations - Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United States - provide instructor pilots based on their number of student pilots.
Canada, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Turkey do not have student pilots in training, but do provide one instructor pilot. Belgium and the United Kingdom are signatories, but do not have an instructor pilot or student at ENJJPT.
"As an example of this totally integrated structure, an American student pilot may have a Norwegian instructor pilot, a Dutch flight commander, a Turkish section commander, an Italian operations officer and a German squadron commander," said Mike Mikito, chief of media relations at Sheppard AFB.
"I now have lifelong friends from these other countries," Hafez said. "You can count on them to do what they say they will."
That can be especially important in today's tumultuous political climates.
"The world is more volatile than ever," Shipp said.
Approximately 250 student pilots earn their wings at ENJJPT annually after a 55-week, three-phased training regimen. Training for that and other related programs at Sheppard is supported by a staff of more than 1,300 military, civilian and contract personnel.
Shipp will soon be moving to the civilian side of flying, going to work for Southwest Airlines, which will allow the 1981 graduate of Quincy High School to continue living out his lifelong dream. Both Shipp and Hafez said all they have "ever wanted to do is fly."
"My dad used to fly for Moorman's and QNI back in Quincy," said Shipp, who with his wife, June, have two high school-aged sons, Zach and Alex. "I grew up wanting to fly."
Shipp's parents, Alden and Joyce, now live in Kansas. His sister, Kate Sanders, who is a teacher, lives with her husband, Steve, in Quincy.
During his career, Shipp also has been stationed at bases in Virginia, New Mexico and Canada, but easily the most memorable period as a pilot for him occurred during the first Gulf War, specifically the opening night of the conflict.
"That was the most interesting and the most intense night of my life,"
Hafez, a 1999 product of QHS, said he was addicted to flight before he started school, and has spent most of his formative years preparing for the opportunity to become a fighter pilot.
"I was hooked at age 5," Hafez said. "My mom was a pilot and I used to help her pull the plane out of the hangar. Then I'd go flying with her."
The rest, as they say, is history.
"I always knew what I wanted to do, and thought about going to the (Air
Force) academy, but wound up at the University of Illinois where I majored in aerospace engineering," said Hafez, whose mom, Sharon, and dad, Walid, still live in the Quincy area. So do grandparents Arthur and Gwen Greenbank, plus his uncle and aunt, Arthur and Sally Greenbank.
After graduating from Illinois, Hafez joined the Air Force and applied for admission to the ENJJPT program.
"This is the most difficult program to get into," Hafez said.
Hafez spends most of his days splitting time between the classroom and the sky. Those days begin with briefings at 6 a.m., but he has no complaints.
He's in the early stages of living out his dream, just like Shipp did 20 years before him.
While the highlights of Hafez's career are yet to unfold, Shipp has started to reflect back on his own and he would not change a thing.
"I have seen a good part of the world ... and worked with people from all over the world," Shipp said. "Everything has been a high point in my career. It has been a privilege to serve my country."
About 20 years from now, look for similar words to be offered by Hafez.
Contact Staff Writer Steve Eighinger at email@example.com or (217) 221-3377