Marines, Air Force on exchange program

Since 1941, Luke has graduated more than 61,000 pilots and continues to graduate fighter pilots. From flying missions to deployments, military branches work as a team to keep the world safe.

The U.S. Marines and the Air Force are participating together in the Joint Service Pilot Exchange Program where a Marine pilot is being trained in the F-35 Lightning II program at Luke Air Force Base and Air Force pilots will be trained by Marines.

“In order to ‘train like we fight,’ the exchange program offers insight into how our joint services operate,” said Lt. Col. Paul Jelinek, 61st Fighter Squadron director of operations. “This is especially important in a multiservice, multinational F-35 program.”

Maj. Joseph Freshour, Marine Corps pilot, is the first Marine aviator selected for the F-35 Air Force Exchange in Operational Test here at Luke.

“I’m very excited to be here,” he said. “The exchange program is designed to integrate the Air Force and Marine training and align it as one. When we deploy together, we will all operate the same.”

The JSPEP moves personnel between the services to help foster knowledge sharing and increase the ability to operate effectively in a joint environment.

“There are always benefits anytime fighter pilots are provided the opportunity to operate in a joint environment,” Jelinek said. “It develops interservice relationships, builds understanding and helps provide common ground as we move forward in the F-35 program.”

Freshour will be training in the F-35A Lightning II jet. He will be part of the 61st FS for three and a half months at which point he will head to Nellis AFB, Nevada, to continue training with the F-35 for another two and a half years.

“Our mission at the 61st FS is to ‘Train the world’s greatest F-35 pilots,’” Jelinek said. “We strive to graduate the same high-caliber student at the end of the course regardless of background. The great thing about this program is that we are capable of taking any Air Force, Marine or partner nation pilot and produce a top-notch F-35 instructor.”

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