One officer here at Luke is preparing to further his Air Force career by relinquishing command of the 310th Fighter Squadron and moving to France to continue his military education.
“To be picked for this assignment is great,” said Lt. Col. Jon Wheeler, 310th Fighter Squadron commander. “I am really looking forward to being an international officer and representing the United States Air Force. It’s a pretty big honor.”
Wheeler will be the only Air Force officer among many officers attending the School of War in Paris, which he was selected to attend as part of his senior developmental education. The selection will require Wheeler to relinquish command two months before the end of his second full year as Top Hat 1.
“If the Air Force would let me, I would just keep this job forever,” Wheeler said. “Phoenix is special to me. I’ve been at Luke three times. I was here as an F-16 student, F-16 instructor, as a commander, and I love it here.”
Before heading to Paris, Wheeler will attend the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., for six months to learn how to speak French. While attending the School of War in Paris, he will be immersed in French culture.
“First, the international officers will have a lead-in course to get used to speaking about military and strategic topics in French,” Wheeler said. “We will have French instructors communicating in mostly French to get us ready for the school.”
After that pre-course, the international officers will attend the School of War and will be integrated with the French military students. Upon graduation, Wheeler will earn a designation as a regional affairs specialist.
“Now you have a specialty in European affairs, which puts you on track for an embassy or European theatre assignment,” Wheeler said. “Most likely my follow-on will be a staff assignment to either the headquarters of North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe or United States European Command, which are located in Belgium and Germany.”
Wheeler looks forward to the broadening education he will receive at the school.
“I’m really looking forward to this assignment, because you get more into the strategic side of thinking,” he said. “At the squadron level, we focus much more on the tactical level. It’s a different perspective.”
Wheeler, who has no background with the French language, said he recently enrolled in a language course at the library.
“There are terrific resources at the library, which has given me a great head start,” he said.
Wheeler’s focus is staying humble as he prepares himself for the future challenges that lay ahead.
“I’m taking it one assignment at a time,” he said. “I just want to make a positive impact on the Air Force while balancing my family’s happiness and rising to any leadership challenges the Air Force has for me along the way.”
Upon arriving in France, Wheeler plans to visit Normandy, Verdun, and many of the famous attractions in Paris before the course starts.
“I want to be a tourist for a little while, which should help me communicate more effectively during the course,” Wheeler said.