April 20, 2012

Luke commander addresses Airmen

by Airman 1st Class Grace Lee

Brig. Gen. JD Harris, 56th Fighter Wing commander, covered a variety of topics affecting Thunderbolt Airmen today and in the future at commander’s calls Monday.

Harris addressed sexual assault prevention, tobacco use and the use of synthetic drugs such as spice and bath salts. Additionally, he stressed the importance of education and fiscal responsibility, including both personal and government funds. He wrapped up by covering the transfer of the 308th Fighter Squadron to Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., and the possible basing of F-35s at Luke Air Force Base.

“Our mission to train the world’s greatest F-16 pilots and maintainers relies on the efforts of everyone,” Harris said. “The decisions we make during our personal time can have a lasting impact on the mission and your future.”

While the aircraft at Luke may eventually change, the need to take care of fellow Airmen will not.

The general stressed the importance of bystander intervention in preventing sexual assault. All Luke Airmen are required to complete bystander intervention training provided by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

Another area of concern involves the use of spice. With a 100-percent increase in spice-related courts-martial, there were recently eight Articles 15 given to Airmen here for using the synthetic drug.

Though Airmen may legally acquire spice, uniformed members are not authorized to purchase or use it.

“An Airman who is using spice isn’t capable of fulfilling the mission,” Harris said.

The general also addressed financial responsibility. In order to help the government save money, Airmen are encouraged to turn off lights and be responsible stewards of resources.

With increased budget cuts, Harris also stressed the importance of taking advantage of the benefits currently available.

“It has never been more important to get your education, while we still have 100-percent tuition assistance,” he said.

Harris then discussed the upcoming transfer of the 308th Fighter Squadron to Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. While the squadron will start sending jets next April, it doesn’t mean everyone in the unit will move there.

Holloman will need all ranks and skill levels, and by this time next year there will be 300 to 400 Airmen carrying out the F-16 mission at Holloman, Harris said. The plan is to follow a “first in, first out” system for those who do move from Luke to Holloman.

While Luke is scheduled to lose two fighter squadrons over the next two years, the base is still considered a frontrunner to receive the F-35 training mission. Harris said the F-35 basing decision is expected this summer.

If the F-35s comes here, it’s good news for the base because it means Luke will have long-term pilot and maintenance training missions for the next 40 to 50 years.

Harris ended by thanking those who perform the mission here every day.

“I want to thank you all for the work you do,” he said. “We are the largest fighter wing in the Air Force and we get the mission done day in and day out. I spoke about sexual assault and drug use, and I charge each and every one of you as wingmen, leaders and warriors to help stop them. If it’s within your ability, I urge you to take action.”

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