309th Fighter Squadron Wild Ducks
Mission: Train the world’s finest F-16 fighter pilots; develop today’s warriors to build tomorrow’s wingmen.
Demographics: 10 assigned instructor pilots, three enlisted situational awareness and resource management professionals, one civilian, 17 attached instructor pilots, and 12 Air Force Reserve Command instructor pilots. The squadron also includes two contract employees and four attached enlisted aircrew flight equipment professionals.
Commander: Lt. Col. William McKibban
Director of operations: Lt. Col. Jay Hughes
Responsibilities: To teach lethal employment of the F-16, leadership, tactics and heritage.
Fun facts: The squadron bears 25 campaign streamers, having fought in North Africa, Italy, France, Germany and Vietnam. Its members include 14 aces, totaling 161 aerial victories. They are also the recipient of the U.S. Air Force’s first Outstanding Unit Award. The Duck patch was the first U.S. military patch designed by Walt Disney and symbolizes the fighter mission, celestial navigation pioneered by the 309th, its round-the-clock mission readiness, and its striking power.
61st Fighter Squadron Top Dogs
Mission: Train the world’s finest F-35 pilots.
Demographics: Thirteen assigned instructor pilots, five enlisted, one flight surgeon, three Reserve instructor pilots and fourteen attached instructor pilots.
Commander: Lt. Col. Michael Gette
Director of operations: Lt. Col. Aaron Jelinek
Responsibilities: Provides world class instruction to F-35 student pilots; integrates Australian F-35s and F-35 instructor pilots into daily operations; establishes the training system foundation for the U.S. Air Force and seven F-35 partner nations; creates common tactics, training profiles and syllabi to be used by all partner nations while meeting the needs of the Combat Air Force; advances the F-35 program; supports efforts to achieve F-35 initial operating capability.
Fun facts: Before each sortie, Top Dog pilots and maintainers render the “Top Dog salute,” signified by wiping the blood of the fresh kill with the back of the hand across the jowl, then raising a “Number 1” to signify the first World War II fighter squadron with 100 kills and the most combat aces.
56th Operations Group, Detachment 1, Tucson Air National Guard
Mission: Provide exceptional F-16 instruction to U.S., FMS and Mobile Training Team students at Tucson ANG and abroad
Demographics: Five assigned instructor pilots
Commander: Lt. Col. Erik Anton
Responsibilities: The 56th OG, Det. 1, stationed at Tucson International Airport supports the 162nd Fighter Wing’s F-16 formal training unit. The Arizona Air National Guard wing’s mission is to provide F-16-qualified pilots to the active-duty U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard, and 25 partner nations. Det. 1 instructors teach all aspects of the F-16 basic course, as well as augment mobile training teams sent abroad for “in-country” flight instruction with partner nations.
Fun facts: Det. 1 was formed in 1996 when international training was moved from the 311th FS at Luke to the 162nd Wing at Tucson.
425th Fighter Squadron Black Widows
Mission: To conduct high-end training for Republic of Singapore air force personnel while benchmarking against the best in the world.
Demographics: There are 159 members including 30 civilians and five U.S. Air Force active-duty Airmen.
Commander: Lt. Col. John Forino
Director of operations: Lt. Col. Chad Jennings
Senior-ranking officer: Lt. Col. Kenneth Lim
Widow Bites: Widow maintenance was 2014 Luke Air Force Base load crew competition champions and continues to lead the 56th Fighter Wing with an average maintenance effectiveness rate of more than 98 percent; FS participated in Forging Sabre, Combat Archer, Maple Flag, Red Flag-Nellis and Red Flag-Alaska exercises from summer of 2013 to summer of 2015. Despite being more than 9,000 miles from home, the members still celebrate cultural traditions such as Chinese New Year, Deepavali and most recently Singapore National Day 50th Anniversary with traditional food, decorations and time-honored ceremonies.
310th Fighter Squadron Top Hats
Mission: Top Hats train the world’s greatest F-16 pilots, instructor pilots and forward air controllers while deploying combat-ready Airmen.
Demographics: There are 54 assigned and attached instructor pilots who train an average of 70 students annually.
Commander: Lt. Col. Matthew Warner
Director of operations:
Lt. Col. Robert Mason
Superintendent: Tech. Sgt. Tiffani Taylor
Facts: In 1988 the Top Hats were the first squadron to receive the LANTIRN night vision system; IPs developed and wrote the replacement training unit syllabus for Block 40/42 and LANTIRN; developed the first LANTIRN tactics; until the mid-90s, the FS was dedicated almost exclusively to the LANTIRN training mission. “Top Hats Rule … Dressed to Kill!”
607th Air Control Squadron
Mission: Train the world’s greatest battle management professionals.
Demographics: There are 150 personnel including 10 officers, 125 enlisted Airmen, 10 civilians and 14 contract employees that train as many as 75 students at any given time and graduate an average of 300 students annually.
Commander: Lt. Col. Jerry Canny
Director of operations: Lt. Col. Ray Wendall
Superintendent: Senior Master Sgt. James Martinez
Facts: The 607th ACS is the U.S. Air Force’s formal training unit for combat-coded control and reporting center operators. It conducts both the Air Force Specialty Code awarding undergraduate weapons director course and also initial qualification training for air weapons officers, enlisted weapons directors, surveillance technicians, electronic protection technicians, and interface control technicians providing highly trained and capable operators to 16 combat-coded active-duty and Air National Guard air control squadrons around the world.
“Snakes … Always Ready!”