When a pair of F-35B Lightning II fifth-generation fighter planes landed at Vance Air Force Base a couple of weeks ago, among the student pilots looking on was 2nd Lt. Jeffrey Teufel.
Little did Teufel realize it at the time, but less than two weeks later he would become the first student pilot from Vance Air Force Base, and only the second in the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command, to be assigned to compete for a spot in the F-35 program.
Earlier in the course of his pilot training Teufel, a native of Portland, Ore., had his sights set on flying the A-10 Thunderbolt II, but over time he changed his mind.
April 15 Teufel and the rest of his pilot training class, 16-08, gathered for their assignment night — a ceremony at at which students learn which aircraft they would be assigned to fly.
When Teufel’s name was announced, a slide of an A-10 was projected on the screen at the front of the room. But the picture quickly changed to the F-35, America’s newest joint strike fighter.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Teufel, whose parents were on hand for the ceremony. “They put the A-10 up first. I was really stoked to get the A-10, to see that up on the slide, and then when they switched it over, it was surreal. I didn’t expect an F-35 to be on there. It was pretty cool. It was a good assignment night, for sure.”
The graduate of Montana State University’s Air Force ROTC program said he went out to the Vance flight line when the two F-35s landed there April 8.
“It was definitely cool to see,” he said. “I’d never seen one in person before.”
Teufel said he didn’t start out wanting to be a pilot when he entered Air Force ROTC.
Teufel and his class will graduate next Friday. He then will report to Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals at Randolph AFB, Texas, where he will be one of 10 pilots competing for six spots in the F-35B. Teufel joins 2nd Lt. Austin Hornsby, who received the first-ever F-35 assignment for an undergraduate pilot training student prior to his graduation from Columbus AFB, Miss.
“There’s definitely a lot of work ahead, for sure,” he said. “I feel like I’m kind of representing Vance down at IFF so I’m going to give it my best and see what happens.”
Teufel said he has enjoyed his time in pilot training at Vance.
“I absolutely loved UPT here,” Teufel said. “Vance has some of the best instructors. I think it’s a great place to fly.”
STORY BY: ENID NEWS & EAGLE
WRITTEN BY: JEFF MULLIN, SENIOR WRITER