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 16 officers, nine government civilians and more than 200 contract employees.


Commander: Lt. Col. Matthew Hayden

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Andy Pitts (F-35) and Lt. Col. Nathan Harrold (F-16)

Responsibilities: Building the future of airpower, the TRS provides 100 percent of the Air Force’s initially qualified F-35 pilots and more than 60 percent of the initially qualified F-16 pilots, totaling 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 13 F-16 and F-35 training syllabi executed across three geographically separated training locations.

Fun facts: Our contract employees have survived more than 4,500 hours of aerial combat and have been awarded 12 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 98 Air Medals and one Purple Heart.

61st Fighter Squadron  Top Dogs

Mission: We build the future of airpower.

Demographics: Eleven assigned instructor pilots, eight enlisted, one flight surgeon, one civilian and 19 attached instructor pilots.


Commander: Lt. Col. Rhett Hierlmeier

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Christopher Marslender

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 and 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.

550th Fighter Squadron Silver Eagles

Mission: Train the world’s best air superiority combat pilots, maintainers and support specialists while developing air dominance advocates for the U.S. Air Force.

Vision: The Air Force’s Example Total Force Integration Team — powered by Airmen — fueled by innovation.

Demographics: Eleven instructor pilots, 63 maintainers, 16 base operational support personnel, one flight surgeon, three contractors (medical, training, standardization and evaluation)


Commander: Lt. Col. Julius Romasanta

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Matthew Thomas

Responsibilities: The 550th FS is an active association unit working alongside the 173rd Fighter Wing, Oregon Air National Guard at Kingsley Field, Oregon. The 550th FS is the largest fighter squadron in Air Education Training Command and responsible for training more than 60 F-15C pilots and 25 intelligence specialists per year while executing more than 4,000 sorties and 4,900 flying hours annually.

Fun facts: The 550th FS activated as the 550th Night Fighter Squadron during WWII and served in New Guinea and the Philippines before being deactivated in 1945. The squadron reactivated in 1970 at Luke, deactivated in 1995 and reactivated in 2017 at Kingsley Field, Oregon.

309th Fighter Squadron Wild Ducks

Mission:  We train the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat-ready Airmen.

Demographics: Twenty-five assigned and attached instructor pilots who train approximately 40 student pilots each year, six enlisted squadron aviation resource management professionals, one civilian, one enlisted personnelist, attached contract employees and enlisted aircrew flight equipment professionals.


Commander: Lt. Col. James Smith

Director of operations: Maj. Bradley Sullivan

Responsibilities: Train and develop fighter pilots and our enlisted Airmen.

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.

607th Air Control Squadron

Mission: We develop the future of command and control — one Airman at a time.

Demographics: There are 194 personnel including 13 officers, 167 enlisted Airmen, 10 civilians and 14 contract employees that train as many as 80 students at any given time and graduate an average of 322 students annually.


Commander: Lt. Col. Ray Wendall

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Ricardo Camel

Superintendent: Chief Master Sgt. Ronnie Woods

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 initial qualification training for air battle managers, enlisted weapons directors, surveillance technicians, electronic protection technicians, interface control technicians, and air surveillance 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!”

21st Fighter Squadron Gamblers

Mission: Train
lethal warriors.

Demographics: Thirteen instructor pilots, 12 civilians and 75 contracted maintenance professionals.


Commander: Lt. Col. Matthew Tuzel

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Matthew Eldredge

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.

425th FS  Black Widows

Mission: 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. Mark Whisler

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Jacob Fulgham

Senior-ranking officer: Lt. Col. Stanley Selva

Widow Bites: Widow maintenance was recognized as the 2015 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. In the last few years, the squadron participated in exercises 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: We train the world’s greatest F-16 pilots and combat-ready Airmen.

Vision: We develop leaders as we build fighter pilots.

Demographics: There are 45 assigned and attached instructor pilots, seven enlisted, five contractors and one civilian that support and train an average of 73 students annually.


Commander: Lt. Col. Kristin Hubbard

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Joshua Boudreaux

Superintendent: Master Sgt. Ashley McGee

Fun facts: In 1988, the Top Hats were the first squadron to receive the low-altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night vision system. Until the mid-‘90s, the FS was dedicated almost exclusively to the LANTIRN training mission. The Top Hats are the longest continuously operating fighter squadron at Luke, training students here since 1969.

“Top Hats Rule … Dressed to Kill!”

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. Kevin Fisher

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 15 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 moved from the 311th FS at Luke to the 162nd FW at Tucson.

63rd FS Panthers

Mission: Empower Airmen to inspire the world’s greatest F-35 pilots

Vision: A collaborative organization that grows in service to one another.

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

Commander: Lt. Col. Curtis Dougherty

Director of operations: Maj. James Duncan

Turkey SNR: Maj. Halit Oktay

Fun facts: Partnering with Turkey, the 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.

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: There are seven U.S. Air Force officers, eleven Norwegian officers, five Italian officers, and seven enlisted personnel.


Commander: Lt. Col. Peter Lee

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Robert Miller; Norwegian senior national representative: Lt. Col. Martin Tesli; Italian senior national representative: Maj. Giuseppe Ambrosio

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