Community leaders passed through the front gate of Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., April 10, 2021, to get a behind-the-scenes look into the 944th Fighter Wing and the respective units they will serve as Honorary Commanders for the next two years.
The 944th FW welcomed their incoming Honorary Commander’s during a base tour and induction ceremony held later that evening.
This program reaches out to the local community and invites both civic and business leaders to become honorary leaders of organizations within the wing. The intended goal of this program across the service is to create awareness and increase community leaders’ knowledge of Air Force operations.
“You will have an impact on the Airmen of the 944th Fighter Wing,” said Col. James Greenwald, Commander of the 944th FW, during his speech at the induction ceremony Saturday evening. “Your being here will remind members that what they do truly matters.”
The Honorary Commander’s program is widely used around the Air Force in all components of the service. More significantly and specific to the Reserve component of the Air Force, the Honorary Commanders often lead and employ these Airmen in a civilian capacity as well.
“This benefits the Airmen by providing so many resources in the communities where our Airmen live,” said Major David Kreis, a Chaplain with the 944th FW and sponsor to one of the Honorary Commanders. “We have been able to connect Airmen with jobs in some cases, or at least information about jobs.”
During their visit, the newest members of the 944th FW were given a windshield tour, making stops at multiple mission areas to learn and understand the capabilities of the Wing.
“As a business owner, I’m excited to see how operations are run and how I can learn and take some things back to my own business,” said Mike Stohler, a new Honorary Commander and local business owner. Mr. Stohler will be serving as an Honorary Commander to the 944th Mission Support Group.
He went on to reiterate one large benefit is coming together as private business leaders and military to learn how each entity works through various issues, especially today with work issues relating to COVID-19.
As part of the tour, Honorary Commanders were given hands-on demonstrations from the Security Forces military working dogs team, services field operations, and briefings from various unit members regarding operations and capabilities within the wing.
“We get Honorary Commanders who are business and non-profit leaders in all sorts of fields,” said Kreis. “One of the biggest benefits of this program is the professional development for our leaders interacting with these Honorary Commanders.”
Additionally, the tour included an inside look at the F-35 Lightning II and F-16 Fighting Falcon, airframes which the Airmen of the 944th FW are charged with maintaining and flying as part of the Wing’s training mission.
“This is a way for me to continue to give back,” said Stohler. “I am a veteran and former pilot, so I am excited to see the new airframes and get an inside look at operations on Luke AFB.”
The new members soon hit the ground running with their responsibilities by being part of a welcome home party for Reserve Citizen Airmen’s children participating in Operation Reserve Kids, a family resiliency event held the same day.
After the Honorary Commander’s finished their tour, the induction ceremony, led by Col. Greenwald, commenced and the newest members of the wing were officially inducted into their respective units.