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Air Force pilot training academy leaves Whiting Field

A bittersweet event was held aboard NAS Whiting Field Tuesday.
Servicemembers there marked the end of a 19 year-old program that allowed Air Force student pilots to learn from instructors at the naval base.

Channel Three's Joe Douglass has more on the value of the program and why it's going away.

When Lieutenant David A Zitelli landed this T-6B at Whiting Field Tuesday, he made history.

1st Lt. David A Zitelli, U.S. Air Force: "I'm excited to be the last one but I'm also disappointed that I'm the last person that gets to experience this."
    
Zitelli is the last Air Force student pilot to study at Whiting Field.
Since 1994, about 17-hundred airmen have taken the primary phase of their flight training at the base.

1st Lt. David A Zitelli, U.S. Air Force: "We all have missions that we perform together. And so it's useful to have people in one service that have been exposed to other ones to know how they do business."
    
Around 100 Air Force pilots have come through whiting each year since the program began.
To complete the inter-branch exchange, a similar number of Navy pilots have trained at Vance Air Force base in Enid, Oklahoma.
They'll now be getting trained at Whiting Field.
The services decided to end the exchange to cut back on travel expenses and other costs.

Lt Col Brian Schafer, U.S. Air Force: "Fundamentally the flying is not that much different between the Navy and the Air Force."

Lieutenant Colonel Brian Schafer, of the Air Force, is the Skipper of the squadron and an instructor.
He says he trained in a similar exchange program at another base in the late 1990s.

Lt Col Brian Schafer, U.S. Air Force: "The dividends it paid on the backend was when I was in combat in Afghanistan, I could look across the room and see guys that I saw in pilot training who are now in the Marines or
Navy and the normal obstacles or walls that would've been in place were not, 'cause we knew each other."

The Air Force students are going, but 18 Air Force instructors are sticking around for now to train Navy and Marine Corps students.
Reporting from aboard NAS Whiting Field, Joe Douglass, Channel Three News.