Team Luke welcomes new commander

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Airman 1st Class Pedro Mota

Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. — Luke Air Force Base Airmen welcomed a new wing commander July 13 when Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard took command of the 56th Fighter Wing from outgoing commander Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus.

Leonard, a command pilot with more than 2,900 flying hours, including 576 combat hours, comes to Luke from the Pentagon, where he served as senior military assistant to the secretary of the Air Force.

He entered the Air Force in May 1992 as a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. This is his second tour as a wing commander, having previously commanded the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, from 2013 through 2015.

The general is accompanied by his wife, Maria, and their six children.

“Maria and I are extremely excited to be here today, to join your team and to serve you,” Leonard said. “This was our first assignment 22 years ago after getting married, and it’s awesome to rejoin your team.”

The ceremony was officiated by Maj. Gen. James Hecker, 19th Air Force commander, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, who narrated Pleus’ many accomplishments at Luke.

“They flew 33,000 sorties during the two years the Pleus family commanded here,” Hecker said. “They produced 800 fighter pilots and 600 air weapons controllers. You’ve had several challenges, but you knocked every single one of them out of the park.”

Hecker continued to praise Pleus for his leadership during his tenure at the wing, and presented him with a Legion of Merit award.

Under Pleus’ command, the wing integrated the F-35 Lightning II, the Air Force’s newest fifth-generation fighter. He ushered in pilot training for the F-35, saw the F-35 program go from two to 39 F-35s, and postured Luke for initial operational capability at Hill AFB, Utah.

“I’m proud of you,” Pleus said. “As I take a last look across your faces I see friends, and that is what I will miss the most. Thank you for all the opportunities you have given Jennifer and me, and I hope we cross paths soon.”

Pleus will go on to work as the director of the F-35 Integration Office at the Pentagon.

As the change of command concluded, Leonard reinforced his priorities and vision for the future at Luke.

“Our part as the 56th FW is to build the future of airpower,” he said. “Our Air Force is growing and our enemies continue to pursue. We must also grow and while doing so pursue excellence. We build the future of airpower, and it starts here.”