Luke Air Force Base in Arizona welcomed its new wing commander June 20, as Brig. Gen. Todd Canterbury assumed command of the 56th Fighter Wing from Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard.
Canterbury, a command pilot with more than 4,100 flying hours, including 650 combat hours, comes to Luke from the Pentagon, where he served as Director of the F-35 Integration Office.
Canterbury entered the Air Force in May 1993 as a graduate of Arizona State University ROTC. This will be his second tour as a wing commander, having previously commanded the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., from 2013 through 2015.
“From a sixth grader at Luke Elementary, to a lifeguard at the base pool, and an F-16 student at the Mighty Ducks, this is my home, this is personal to me,” Canterbury said. “This is my chance to give back to the community that has given so much to my family.”
The ceremony was officiated by Maj. Gen. Patrick Doherty, commander of 19th Air Force at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, who shared both Leonard’s many accomplishments, and Canterbury’s special heritage at Luke. Canterbury’s father, retired Maj. Gen. Henry Canterbury, was the commander of Tactical Air Command’s 832nd Air Division at Luke from 1982 to 1984.
“The Air Force is very excited about the trusted, respected leadership that Tales and the Canterbury family bring to Luke Air Force Base and the 56th Fighter Wing,” said Doherty. “I think it’s probably the first time that we had a father be the Luke commander and now the son is taking over as the Luke commander. I’m not so sure that’s happened in the history of the Air Force before, so it’s pretty special for the Canterbury family today.”
Doherty praised Leonard for his leadership during his tenure as commander, and presented him with a Legion of Merit.
“This is an incredible animal of a production engine,” Doherty said. “26,000 sorties in 2017. 34,000 flying hours in 2017. There’s no other wing that does that… There’s no other wing that produces 181 F-16 pilots in one year or 74 F-35 pilots in one year. That’s an incredible work load that your United States Air Force is relying on and you guys do it like clockwork.”
Under Leonard’s command, the wing developed integrated maintainer teams, put a focus on leader development, and dedicated time and support to the creation of the Human Performance Team. In 2017, the 56th Fighter Wing won the Air Education and Training Command Weapons Excellence Award and Outstanding Unit Award, followed by the Gen. Larry O. Spencer Innovation Award and Gen. Mark A. Welsh III One Air Force Award in 2018.
“I’d like to say thank you to all the Thunderbolts,” Leonard said. “It was an honor to serve you all. Just remember, care for the person on your left, wire yourselves parallel as a team and make bold decisions and change the Air Force from the 56th Fighter Wing.”
Leonard will go on to serve as the deputy commanding general of the Air Combined Joint Forces Component Command in Iraq.
As the change of command concluded, Canterbury reinforced his priorities and vision for the future at Luke.
“While the enemies have changed, the extraordinary dedication, courage and skill of the men and women we call Thunderbolts, has remained constant,” Canterbury said. “While we honor their service, we cannot rest on their laurels. Now is our time to perfect our trade craft as professional warriors and instructors, to provide the combat Air Force the most capable and lethal fighter pilots.”