56th Operations Group

56th Training Squadron

Mission: Train the world’s greatest F-35 and F-16 pilots by providing peerless instruction, virtual training and training systems management

Demographics: There are 14 officers, eight civilians and 201 contract employees


Commander: Lt. Col. Matthew Hayden

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Rhett Hierlmeier and Maj. Matthew Brockhaus

Responsibilities: Provides 97 percent of the Air Force’s F-16 and soon F-35 pilots and almost one-half of all the Air Force’s fighter pilots each year. It conducts the world’s finest instruction in aircraft systems, air-to-air, air-to-ground, suppression of enemy air defenses fundamentals, special missions and high performance aircraft physiology. Additionally, the TRS manages all lesson content, courseware, aircrew training devices, graduation evaluation program, and the 56th Fighter Wing’s programmed flying training for eight F-16 training syllabi consisting of more than 24,400 hours and 18,000 aircraft sorties per year across two geographically separated training units.

Fun fact: Our contract employees have survived more than 4,500 hours of aerial combat and have been awarded 12 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 97 Air Medals and one Purple Heart.

21st Fighter Squadron Gamblers

Mission: Train lethal warriors for the defense of Taiwan

Demographics: Nine U.S. Air Force instructor pilots, four Taiwan air force IPs, 12 civilians and 75 contracted maintenance professionals


Commander: Lt. Col. Javier Antuña

Director of operations: Maj. Cheyne Dewolfe

Fun facts: The unit has flown the P-47 Thunderbolt, F-86 Sabre, F-100 Super Sabre, F-4 Phantom II, OA-10 Thunderbolt II and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Since 1996, it is a squadron composed of Taiwan and U.S. air forces personnel, training the Taiwan air force pilots in advanced F-16 tactics.

62nd Fighter Squadron Spikes

Mission: Train the world’s best F-35 pilots

Vision: Develop professional fighter pilots and leaders for the U.S.

Air Force and our partners

Demographics: Currently there are nine U.S. Air Force officers, three

Norwegian officers and four enlisted personnel


Commander: Lt. Col. Gregory Frana

Director of operations: Maj. Brian Healy

Norwegian senior national representative: Lt. Col. Martin Tesli

Responsibilities: The 62nd FS is the first multipartner F-35 squadron in the world and is responsible for conducting F-35 partner training for the United States and seven partner nations at Luke; the 62nd will eventually consist of 14 U.S., seven Norwegian and five Italian F-35s

Fun facts: The squadron motto is: “Spike Aces … 357 and Counting!” Since January 1941, the 62nd FS has destroyed 357 enemy aircraft either in the air or on the ground.

56th Operations Support Squadron

Mission: Deliver outstanding operational support to Luke Air Force

Base and the surrounding airspace while developing combat-ready


Demographics: There are 16 officers, 180 enlisted, 28 civilians and

two contractors


Commander: Lt. Col. Paul Jelinek

Operations officer: Maj. James Smith

Superintendent: Senior Master Sgt. Lori Hayworth

Responsibilities: Provide airfield management, air traffic control, rated training and flying training syllabus support, weapons, tactics, and intelligence expertise, weather forecasting services, flight records management, operations scheduling, aircrew flight equipment, and rated manning management. Executes an annual flying hour program of more than 24,260 hours and 18,100 sorties.

Fun facts: The squadron war cry, “Get in the fight!” serves as a call to arms and a challenge to others to match the squadron’s excellence.

309th Fighter Squadron Wild Ducks

Mission: Train the world’s finest F-16 fighter pilots

Demographics: Thirty-two assigned and attached instructor pilots who train approximately 40 student pilots each year, three enlisted squadron aviation resource management professionals, one civilian, attached contract employees and enlisted aircrew flight equipment professionals


Commander: Maj. Kathryn Gaetke

Director of operations: Maj. David Bennett

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.

425th FS 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, four U.S. Air Force active-duty Airmen and three Air Force reservists


Commander: Lt. Col. Jason Cooper

Director of operations: Maj. Brian Perkins

Senior-ranking officer: Lt. Col. Kenneth Lim

Widow Bites: Widow maintenance was recognized as the 2015 Luke Air Force Base

load crew competition champions and continues to lead the 56th FW with an average maintenance effectiveness rate of more than 98 percent.  In the last few years, the squadron participated in Exercise Forging Sabre, Combat Archer, Maple Flag, Red Flag-Nellis and Red Flag-Alaska. Despite being more than 9,000 miles from home, squadron members still celebrate cultural traditions such as Chinese New Year, Deepavali, and most recently, Singapore National Day 51st 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 Gaetke

Director of operations: Maj. Christopher Marslender

Superintendent: Tech. Sgt. Tiffani Taylor

Fun 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!”

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 14 attached instructor pilots


Lt. Col. Michael Gette

Commander: Lt. Col. Curtis Dougherty

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.

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

Fun 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!”

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: There are 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 ANG wing’s mission is to provide F-16-qualified pilots to the active-duty U.S. Air Force, ANG 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 FW at Tucson.

63rd FS Panthers

Mission: Build the future of airpower by training the world’s best F-35 pilots

Vision: Produce combat-relevant aviators, warriors and leaders ready to defend national interests when called upon

Demographics: There are Air Force active-duty, Reserve, civilians and contractors

Director of operations: Maj. Dean Miller

Turkey SNR: TBD

Fun facts: Partnering with Turkey, unit activated Jan. 15, 1941, claims 10 aces with more than 174 air-to-air kills and 110 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground; we stand on the shoulders of giants … the 63rd FS heritage room is named after Col. Walker Mahurin, the first American pilot to become a double ace in the European Theater and the only U.S. Air Force pilot to shoot down enemy planes in both the European and Pacific theaters, and the Korean War; during the Korean War, Mahurin destroyed three-and-a-half Russian MiG-15 jet fighters; he was shot down while on a pioneering dive bomb mission in an F-86 Sabrejet, and held in solitary confinement for 16 months as a POW before being released.

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