Brig. Gen Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander, held his first commander’s call Monday at the Luke Air Force Base theater.
The day was divided by Airmen, NCOs, senior NCOs, civilians and officers. It began at 7 a.m. with the Airman tier being the first to hear the commander speak about where he came from, why he joined and why he has chosen to stay in the Air Force.
He spoke of his grandfather, Carl Pleus, a successful lawyer during the 1920s, who owned two planes back when they were the newest invention. His grandfather passed away when he hit a mountain hidden by the clouds on a flight, leaving behind his wife and 2-year-old son Ned, Pleus’ father.
Carl’s other plane was sold at an auction, and the gentleman who purchased it from Pleus’ grandmother asked her who Ned was. After hearing Ned was Carl’s son, he removed the wooden airplane propeller and gave it to Pleus’ grandmother to give to Ned to remember his father by.
After graduating from pilot school, Pleus’ father gave him the propeller. It hangs in Pleus’ front room as a reminder of his heritage and why he joined the Air Force.
“This is why I joined,” Pleus said. “I’ve had a love of flying since I was a baby, but it’s not why I chose to stay. I stayed because of the core values of the U.S. Air Force, and I stayed because of you (Airmen). I stayed because of integrity, service and excellence.”
Chief Master Sgt. John Mazza, 56th FW command chief, spoke about the changes to the enlisted performance review process as well as developmental special duty assignments and the impact they can have on an Airman’s career.
“You are our future staffs, techs and master sergeants,” Mazza said. “This is the time to start setting goals. This is the time you start telling yourselves ‘You are going to make a difference in today’s U.S. Air Force,’ and these opportunities are how you are going to do it.”
Next, the general touched on sexual assault and how it destroys the core values that hold the Air Force together. For Pleus, it is unforgivable.
“I will use the Uniform Code of Military Justice against any man or woman who commits this crime,” he said. “It is an uncomfortable topic, but we need to be comfortable talking about it because it tears apart everything we stand for in the U.S. Air Force.
“This is an issue for both men and women,” he said. “ It is not a joke, it is not funny. It is horrible and it ruins lives.”
Pleus spoke about equal opportunity and that every Airman should be able to go to work free of rude behavior, inappropriate jokes or feeling less than valued in their work place.
“Each of you is here to fulfill the Luke Air Force Base mission, training the world’s greatest F-16 pilots and deploying mission ready Airmen,” Pleus said. “ There is not a single one of you I can do without.”
Pleus talked about the up-tick in drug use throughout the Air Force and that it doesn’t matter if it’s legal in a state a person is deployed to or on leave, it is illegal and has no place in the U.S. Air Force.
Pleus remarked about the F-35A Lightning II at Luke and the impact it will have over the next few years. More than 2,400 F-35 joint strike fighters will be produced for the Air Force, Marines and Navy. Of those jets, 144 will be stationed at Luke.
Pleus briefly spoke about the construction on base and that two buildings have been finished with the third scheduled to be complete by mid-September.
A surge of returning deployers from the 56th Security Forces Squadron has enabled the Kachina and North gates to reopen Sept. 2. Kachina will be open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week and North gate will be open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“I need you all to do a favor for me,” Pleus said. “When you roll through one of our gates next week, thank the 56th Security Forces Squadron personnel who are working it. Say, ‘Hey, thank you for opening the gates for us.’ They stand post each and every day to keep all of us safe, and it is the least we can do to thank them for their dedication and service.”
The general and command chief ended the commander’s call with a question and answer segment.
The general made Airmen laugh and feel comfortable while he spoke. He also touched on his priorities as commander at Luke AFB. Those priorities include ensuring the F-35 program progresses successfully, continuing to train the world’s best Viper and Lightning II pilots while deploying mission-ready warfighters, and maintaining the positive relationships the base has with the off-base community.
“Thank you very much for attending today,” Pleus said. “On behalf of the chief and me, each of you is vitally critical to the mission here, and it is an honor to be your commander.”