Brig. Gen. Jason Rueschhoff assumed command of the 56th Fighter Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., on July 29, 2022. The 56th FW is the largest fighter wing in the U.S. Air Force, with thousands of both military and civilian personnel operating in one of the nation’s fastest-growing areas. After a month of immersing with organizations across base and meeting with community leaders, Rueschhoff discussed his perspective, goals, and insights with 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs.
56 FW/PA: Sir, at your All Call you outlined your three priorities for the 56th FW: connected, respected, and protected. What inspired those?
Rueschhoff: I really want our team at Luke to know that what they do matters each and every day. When you dedicate your blood, sweat, and tears to a job, you have the right to know that it’s for a greater purpose, a purpose that serves our mission and our nation. In the midst of that, everyone needs to have the ability to achieve their full potential in a culture and environment that promotes the best of people and one that is not impeded by inequity. Finally, we need people to be bold, to lead courageously, and to take initiative. That mentality is risky to some, but to me it is a necessity.
I want our Thunderbolt Team to trust that their leadership has their backs and understands that in finding better, more efficient ways of executing the mission there will be mistakes. My mantra continues to be that we will do the “Right Thing at the Right Time for the Right Reason” – the latter of those being the bedrock. Intentions do matter and in the end, we all make mistakes, but those mistakes help us determine a better way forward. When Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, he failed 100 times and he said, “I found 100 ways that didn’t work,” on his way to discovering the one that did. We need that nerve in our wing.
56 FW/PA: It’s fitting to tie the word “connected” to Luke AFB when you look at the wide network of Airmen, ally and partner nations, and the local community that both impact and are impacted by the wing every day. How would you describe the relationships surrounding the wing? How would you like to see them develop?
Rueschhoff: Every organization has its strengths and weaknesses, and I know there are things we can improve upon here. That being stated, I have been extremely impressed with the professionalism, dedication, and selflessness resident on our base. Anyone who has spent even a day here can see the foundational aspect of teamwork.
I have been a part of many amazing wings, but I have never seen this level of cooperation among the entire 7,000+ total force population at Luke AFB. The 56th FW groups, 944th FW and all of Luke’s tenant units have fantastic relationships that seem to overcome any level of organizational dissent. It’s inspirational.
The off-base community support is equally moving. Again, in all the places in which I have been honored to serve, I have NEVER seen this level of community support. I was fortunate enough to meet with many of the elected officials across the area and all were so appreciative of what our Luke Airmen do and represent each and every day. Their support is unparalleled. The sheer outpouring of desire to be a part of Luke, to assist in any way, to help our base population, is simply overwhelming. I am in awe of the generosity of the many organizations engaging with our installation and our people. We are so fortunate!
My goal is to connect the off and on-base personnel more in the future. I want to help those here at Luke experience and understand the fantastic level of support from our off-base partners, as well as showcase to those folks our exceptional Airmen.
56 FW/PA: The 56th FW is a training ground for two of the U.S. Air Force’s high-performing fighter jets. What’s your view on the importance of 56th FW Airmen’s role with the F-35 Lightning II and F-16 Fighting Falcon?
Rueschhoff: I cannot overstate the importance of our Airmen’s role in both platforms as well as the air control squadron, intelligence formal training unit, and maintenance training. The reality is, however, all our Airmen across the wing are regularly training and each of them are key to our mission of “Training the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilots and Combat Ready Airmen.” Our Air Force is the backbone of the joint force and the F-16 and F-35 are the workhorses for airpower. Luke AFB Airmen are essential to U.S. strategic posture at a global level. Their efforts are responsible for deterring, defending, and defeating across all our combatant commands.
56 FW/PA: You’ve been “in the seat” for about a month and a half now. Are there any goals that you already have in mind for the wing?
Rueschhoff: Great question….
My goal is for every level of leadership to develop their Airmen to be the next ‘them.’ I want our training to be second-to-none and all other bases and training units to use Luke as the benchmark. It’s also important that our community fully grasps the significance of what Luke does for the nation, the state, and the West Valley. I want our Airmen to be excited and inspired to come to work each and every day. I think as we continue to develop the ways we lead, train, and connect we’ll see the effect it has on our Airmen.
56 FW/PA: Your past couple of assignments were at the major command and Numbered Air Force levels. How do you feel those experiences will compare to being back at the wing?
Rueschhoff: Those experiences were exceptional, and I am blessed to have had them, but there’s something simply exhilarating about being at the wing level. While the Luke AFB total force population is north of 7,000 folks, I have a chance to really get to know people. This life we call the Air Force is pretty amazing. We get to work alongside a host of other people who put service before self. There are few, if any, other organizations that are based on that principle. Getting to meet and relate to our Airmen at the wing level is exactly why I am absolutely thrilled to be assigned to Luke AFB.
56 FW/PA: Is there any advice that you would like to give to our Airmen here at Luke who are maybe just starting their Air Force journey?
Rueschhoff: Wow…What a great first assignment! It will be tough to beat, but I have found that the old adage of blooming where you are planted is very appropriate for the military. My family and I have been assigned to some ‘interesting’ places, but we have truly loved them all.
First, ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING! I was stationed in Hawaii a couple of times and was always amazed that there were people there who were somehow miserable. Blew my mind. Then I realized that there are people who will be miserable anywhere. Be positive and be uplifting. There are enough naysayers in the world and my hope is that they are in our adversaries’ forces and not ours – as that is a weakness we can and will exploit.
Second, LEARN as much as you can at every opportunity. Our Air Force is full of extremely intelligent people who have so much to teach. Be one of them and humbly learn from the others.
Finally, LEAD now and LEAD boldly. There is no time to wait in the wings and hope someone else will step up. Our Airmen are part of the “1% club.” The small percentage who have volunteered to give their life for our nation if called upon to do so. You are already leading and I challenge you to continue doing so. Leadership knows no rank; it knows no position. The title of “leader” is not a right, it is a privilege and it’s earned. Earn it every day!