As we open up on what I hope to be a terrific 2013, I’d like to start it off with a heartfelt thank you to everyone here at Luke Air Force Base. I’m so grateful for our talented and dedicated Airmen — enlisted, officers and civilian — who work hard each and every day to make the mission come together and take care of their wingmen along the way. I’m thankful to be a part of a great team.
This year promises to be another professionally fulfilling year for us, and I thought I’d make some time to share with you some of the big things I see on our collective plate here at Luke.
First and foremost, we have to continue to train and produce the world’s best F-16 pilots. Training fighter pilots has been the core of our base’s mission since 1941 and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
Not only is the quality of the training we provide vitally important, but as our Air Force faces a fighter pilot shortage now and in the coming years, we are also working hard to optimize the number of F-16 pilots we can train each year. This is based on a lot of factors including how many pilots the training pipeline can supply us, how many pilots operational F-16 units can effectively absorb, and our own wing’s capacities to fly training missions based on our instructor pilot and maintenance manning, fleet health, etc.
We’ll also continue to do our other important training missions, some of which are not as well known across the base. We will continue to work with the 82nd Training Wing, headquartered at Sheppard AFB, Texas, to provide a hands-on training platform for F-16 maintainers coming through the training pipeline.
Additionally, we’ll keep training all the new intelligence professionals who will be assigned to support F-16 units across world. Another important part of our mission that we will keep going full force is our piece of the Nurse Commissioning Training Program. We’re one of four locations across the Air Force that does this. To make it happen we have a great partnership with the Scottsdale Medical Center to train about 20 new Air Force nurses every nine weeks.
I also expect the 56th FW to expand our training mission this year.
The 607th Air Control Squadron, which is located on the north end of the base around the end of the runway, will move from being assigned to Air Combat Command to Air Education and Training Command, and will join our 56th Operations Group. The 607th ACS trains all air battle managers, weapons directors, surveillance technicians, interface control technicians and electronic protection technicians, and prepares them for assignment to operational units.
We’ll be doing a lot of planning and preparation this year to posture us for two large muscle moves I expect we’ll execute in 2014. The first is the arrival of our first F-35s and the second, pending congressional approval, is the anticipated relocation of our first of two F-16 squadrons to Holloman AFB, N.M. While we won’t likely see either aircraft moves in 2013, from a command perspective I see this as the year where we have to do a lot of very important groundwork to ensure both of these efforts are successful.
Whether it is manning, construction, training development, budgeting, communications, security, base operations, medical support, maintenance, or logistics, both the F-35 beddown and the Holloman relocation will touch virtually every squadron on base in some form or fashion. We collectively need to ensure that in 2013 we each attack our planning and preparation with deliberate focus and intellectual rigor. It will be really important for us to get as much of it as right as possible because many Airmen who follow us will live with the wisdom (or folly) of our decisions.
There are some other things to get excited about in 2013 too. I, for one, am looking forward to getting the football field fixed. I agree it’s a mess. We’re working with the contractors now to get that project executed this spring. Then of course there is the Open House and Air Show March 16 and 17. What a great way to showcase our United States Air Force to the community in Maricopa County and beyond.
To our local community on and off base, we appreciate the continued support you provide to ensure we can continue to do what we do: fly, fight and win. Also, thank you to all Airmen, both military and civilian alike, who sacrifice each and every day to make this wing everything that it is. It’s more than a great place to work; it’s an amazing place to live.
Keep up the great work as we step into 2013.