When you think of Fort Wayne and the military, the 122nd Fighter Wing likely comes to mind and you’ve probably heard the A-10s roaring overhead.
Behind a giant garage door on the Air National guard base, mechanics keep the A-10 fighter jets mission-ready.
“I get to go up and fly the jet, but for every pilot there’s probably ten other troops supporting us getting off the ground,” Lt. Col. Bryan Jandorf said.
Jandorf started flying the A-10s 15 years ago, fulfilling a childhood dream. Jandorf grew up in Wisconsin and remembers the first time he laid his eyes on the single-seat fighter jet.
“The first time I saw the A-10, I was in downtown Appleton, Wisconsin for the Apple Day Parade and two A-10s came over, what I thought at the time was right at rooftop level,” he said.
He fell in love with the planes and joined the Air Force right out of high school. He went to flight school and took his first flight in the A-10 in 2003.
“It was a realization of my dream as a kid that I got to be a fighter pilot and I got to fly the plane I wanted to fly as a kid,” he said.
The A-10s are known as the Warthogs and are at eleven bases across the country. The squadron at the 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne is known as the Blacksnakes.
The jets were designed in 1975 for close air support.
“Supporting the Army and Marine Corps as they advance on the enemy on the ground,” Jandorf explained.
A 30 mm Gatling gun on the front is designed to be used against vehicles on the ground and under the wings the planes there are eleven pylons that can carry several different kinds of munitions.
On any given morning, the base is full of activity as pilots and crews prepare for and execute flying drills so they’re ready to respond to any state or federal mission at a moment’s notice.
“The Air Force gives us a big laundry list of all mission sets and skills we need to be good at to support a soldier or marine on the ground,” Jandorf said.
The base brings a big benefit to the city, with more than a thousand people filling the campus every drill weekend.
“It’s their neighbors, their friends, their colleagues out here doing this mission. We are just regular people doing extraordinary things.” Jandorf said.
Now as Jandorf flys over Fort Wayne, doing drills and executing missions, he hopes he’s inspiring the next generation.
“I always think this, that there’s some kid on the ground that sees me, [like I saw the A-10s when I was a kid,] and says I want to do that and hopefully their path brings them to the 122nd,” he said. “We’re always looking for the next Blacksnake that wants an adventure.”