Thanks for what you do in supporting the mission and sustaining the largest fighter wing in the Air Force. It is especially comforting to see the continual outpouring of effort and support for this year’s Operation Air Force visit by U.S. Air Force Academy cadets throughout the summer, as the third and final group of cadets completed their time here in July. This program, and Luke’s support, is a great demonstration of the rich pool of talent Luke boasts as it forms the backbone of F-16 pilot and maintenance training. The manner in which Luke AFB received, hosted and educated the cadets is a true testament of how each individual at Luke contributes to the mission of the 56th Fighter Wing and Air Force as a whole. So thank you for making all of that possible.
Everyone at Luke, no matter what uniform or daily work attire they wear, enables the mission of training the world’s greatest F-16 fighter pilots and maintainers, all the while deploying combat-ready Airmen. The thousands of flight hours, hundreds of Airmen we train here, and deployments we support worldwide make a prodigious impact upon our military force. As you read this, pilots are likely planning, briefing, executing or debriefing training missions here at Luke. Maintenance personnel are out on the line preparing, launching and recovering aircraft. The support group and medical group are sustaining, guarding and providing for the welfare of the wing to make every flight hour we fly a possibility. Demonstrating these aspects of the mission to the visiting cadets was a perfect summary of how Team Luke operates as a single, cohesive unit.
As previously covered by this publication, the U.S. Air Force Academy sends out cadets each summer to Air Force bases around the world to give the rising third, and some fourth, year cadets an opportunity to see active-duty life firsthand. Having been on the other end of this program as a cadet 10 years ago, I can attest to its importance to our future officers and the profound impact active-duty Airmen can have upon visiting cadets.
The cadets’ visit to Luke enabled them to spend time in each group at Luke to gain a greater understanding of the team effort involved in making a complex machine such as the 56th FW and its tenant units function as a team. Ultimately, this gives the cadets a better perspective of Air Force operations, and embodies an ‘executive summary’ of the manner in which each individual organization contributes to the Luke mission.
During their time here, cadets were able to shadow medical group personnel and learn firsthand what the critical job entails of caring for our Airmen, dependents and retirees. The cadets were hosted by the mission support group, visiting myriad shops and organizations to learn from many perspectives what it takes to protect, maintain and sustain the mission here at Luke.
Finally, to observe the manner in which we train the world’s greatest pilots and maintainers, the visiting cadets were hosted by the maintenance and operations groups. During their time with maintenance, cadets endured the triple-digit heat for a short time to gain an appreciation for the monumental manpower, effort and leadership it takes to keep our F-16s mission capable, despite the fact that all of the F-16s on base are older than all of the visiting cadets.
Last but not least, they experienced the end products of the Luke mission when they flew in F-16 simulators then took an orientation flight in the actual Viper. The genius of this program’s organization is that it demonstrates the vast effort required to generate every single F-16 flying hour Luke produces to the cadets and active-duty participants alike. In doing so, Team Luke inspired and gave these cadets a better perspective regarding how, no matter which AFSC they eventually are selected for, every single Airman counts when it comes to militaristic synergy involved in our Air Force. Hopefully we can all appreciate that as well.
The most inspiring part of Operation Air Force is seeing Airmen from every field Luke has to offer step up, like they always do, to proudly demonstrate their role in supporting the Luke mission. Cadets were given time to interact with everyone from Brig. Gen. JD Harris, 56th FW commander, to the youngest of Airmen at Luke. They were also given extra mentoring time with company grade officers to give them perspective on their future roles as officers. This program is a great opportunity for cadets, but equally beneficial for the officers and enlisted troops who host them, as they convey the manner in which Luke members work as a cohesive team to fulfill the mission. This program is a simple demonstration of the way Luke, and ultimately, our Air Force functions as a single entity in support of the greater mission at hand; most importantly, it proves how indispensable each member of Team Luke is to enabling the mission.
Please know that however you contribute, it’s a critical piece of the collective effort to sustain the mission here at Luke and in our Air Force. You make it happen, so again, thank you for what you do.
Zielinski is president of the Company Grade Officers Council.