Thunderbolt — The Book pg2


56th Operations Group

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.

61st FS 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: Provide 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. 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.

62nd FS 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, 11 Norwegian officers, five Italian officers, and seven enlisted personnel.


Commander: Lt. Col. Christopher Hubbard

Director of operations: Maj. Valerie Wetzbarger

Norwegian senior national representative: Lt. Col. Christoffer Eriksen

Italian senior national representative: Maj. Emanuelle Angelelli

Responsibilities: The 62nd FS is the only multi-partner 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.

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 15 Air Force active-duty, five Reserve, one civilian and 12 contractors.


Commander: Lt. Col. Curtis Dougherty

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Matthew Cisar

Fun facts: 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.

308th FS Emerald Knights

Mission: Provide Elite F-35 instruction.

Vision: Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose – Develop leaders that can prevail in a complex environment.

Demographics: There are 10 U.S. Air Force officers, six Dutch officers, seven enlisted personnel, and nine civilian contractors.


Commander: Lt. Col. Robert Miller

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Nicholas Suppa

Responsibilities: The 308th FS is the newest F-35A squadron in the world and is responsible for conducting F-35 partner training for the United States, Netherlands and Denmark; the 308th will eventually consist of ten U.S., eight Dutch and seven Danish F-35s.

Fun facts: The 308th ranks tenth as the most highly decorated unit in Air Force history among the 152 fighter squadrons that were ever active. With a long and distinguish service record dating from 1942, it has served around the world from Southeast Asia to Europe.

309th FS Wild Ducks

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

Demographics: There are 25 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: Lt. Col. Shawn Walsh

Responsibilities: Train and develop fighter pilots and 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.

310th FS 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.


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


Commander: Lt. Col. Kristin Hubbard

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Donnie Davenport

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, following which the Top Hats stood up as the sole F-16 Forward Air Control (Airborne) school house in the U.S. Air Force. To this day, the 310th FS is the longest continuously operating fighter squadron at Luke AFB, training students here since 1969.

“Top Hats Rule … Dressed to Kill!”

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, five U.S. Air Force active-duty Airmen.


Commander: Lt. Col. Mark Whisler

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Nicholas Krajicek

Senior-ranking officer: Lt. Col. Stanley Selva

Widow Bites: The 425th Fighter Squadron fly the F-16C/D Block 52 and perform high-end training through regular exercises and homegrown Large Force Employment exercises. Regularly recognized as the best AMU on Luke AFB with multiple Quarterly Load Competition and the 2018 Annual Weapons Load Crew victories, Widow Maintenance leads the 56th Fighter Wing with an average effectiveness rate of more than 98 percent. Despite operating more than 9,000 miles from their home, squadron members continue to celebrate cultural traditions such as Chinese New Year, Deepavali and most recently, Singapore National Day with traditional food, decorations and time-honored ceremonies. The Black Widows are feared throughout the land!

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, and three contractors.


Commander: Lt. Col. Julius Romasanta

Director of operations: Maj. Alexander Goldfein

Responsibilities: The 550 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 AETC 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 World War II and served in New Guinea and the Philippines before being deactivated in 1945.

56th Operations Support Squadron

Mission: Provide outstanding service and operations support.

Demographics: 21 officers, 195 enlisted and 30 civilians.


Commander: Lt. Col. Anthony St. Aubyn

Operations officer: Maj. Christopher Lowe

Superintendent: Senior Master Sgt. Michael Olmstead

Responsibilities: Provide airfield management, air traffic control, rated training and flying training syllabus support, weapons, tactics, and intelligence expertise, weather forecasting services, aviation resource management, operations scheduling, aircrew flight equipment, rated manning management, and airfield radar, weather, and radio systems maintenance. Executes an annual flying hour program of more than 21,000 hours and 15,000 sorties.

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

56th Training Squadron

Mission: Provide and enable the world’s greatest F-16 and F-35 training for tomorrow’s fight across the 56th OG.

Demographics: There are 22 officers, one senior NCO, ten government civilians, and more than 200 contract employees.


Commander: Lt. Col. Chris Marslender

Directors of operations: Maj. Adam Vogel (F-35) and Lt. Col. Bailyn Beck (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.

607th Air Control Squadron

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

Demographics: There are 170 personnel including 15 officers, 155 enlisted Airmen, 13 civilians and 15 contract employees that train as many as 95 students at any given time and graduate an average of 332 students annually.


Commander: Lt. Col. Gabriel Hull

Director of operations: Lt. Col. Stanley Brown Jr.

Superintendent: Senior Master Sgt. Hugo Caballero

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 29 active-duty and Air National Guard command and control battle management operations units 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 Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson and abroad.

Demographics: There are seven assigned F-16 instructor pilots.


Commander: Lt. Col. Eric Janski

Responsibilities: Stationed at Morris Air National Guard Base and supports the Arizona ANG 162nd Wing’s F-16 formal training unit; the 162nd 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.

‘Rock rules’ imperative

The Rock* rests quietly on the north side of the 56th Fighter Wing Headquarters, Bldg. 452, and is ready for all challenges.

1. The 56th Fighter Wing commander (Luke 1) is the owner of the Rock.

2. Luke 1 delegates care and painting of the Rock to any unit (group, squadron, flight, section, unit, or training class) with the following stipulations:

• It must be professional – Luke 1’s Rock has a proud heritage. DO NOT EMBARRASS THE ROCK OR THE THUNDERBOLTS.

• The Rock is to be painted in such a way as to clearly represent the group, squadron, flight, section, unit, or training class who has chosen to care for the Rock.

• Colors that stand out are highly encouraged, but camouflage painting is also acceptable.

• When the Rock is freshly cared for (recently painted), it must be allowed to cure for a minimum of two weeks as long as the current design is appropriate in nature.

• Training classes are not permitted to paint the Rock until each member of the class has passed the first significant milestone (i.e., a major course test; B-course students have soloed, etc.). Because of this restriction, when the Rock has been painted by a training class, the Rock will be allowed three weeks to cure.

3. If a unit repaints the Rock before the Rock has properly cured as stated above, the offending unit will be responsible for returning the Rock to the previous design (within 56 hours).

4. Delegations that paint the Rock are not to be caught by the 56th Security Forces Squadron patrol (SFS patrol sees the group painting the Rock).

• If caught, the SFS patrol will notify the 56th SFS commander or DO and then resume duties; the only question asked by the patrol will be what unit the delegation is representing. The group can complete the painting of the Rock after they have been caught by SFS.

• The commander of the unit caught painting the Rock will (within 56 business hours of being caught) report to all SFS shift changes (Guard Mount) during a day to thank SFS for their hard work and explain how SFS helps their unit. Contact SFS Ops at 623-856-7062/4172 to determine the day’s shift schedules.

*The Rock is defined as the two large rocks that are currently painted. Do not include the multiple smaller rocks in the area.