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By Sig Christenson | San Antonio Express-News | Published: September 25, 2016

SAN ANTONIO (Tribune News Service) — At the controls of a T-38 training jet high over Hondo, 1st Lt. Alex Lauer dueled at up to 485 mph against Capt. Christopher “Fiat” Umphres, who has 450 combat hours in Afghanistan.

Lauer was “shot down” just once in the mock dogfight, demonstrating his growing skills.

Lauer, 24, is near the end of an innovative 12-week course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph that has increased graduation rates in the Air Force, which is struggling to fill a huge fighter pilot shortage as aviators burned out by deployments, budget cuts and extraneous duties flee for jobs elsewhere.

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