Colonel George R. Watkins is the commander of the 56th Operations Group at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The group’s mission is to build the future of airpower by training F-35 pilots, F-16 pilots, F-15 pilots, air battle managers, weapons directors, and intelligence professionals. He oversees operations for the Air Force’s largest operations group comprised of 11 squadrons and over 170 F-16 and F-35 aircraft.
Colonel Watkins graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott Arizona, then served at Incirlik Air Base in support of Operation NORTHERN WATCH. He graduated Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training as a Distinguished Graduate, then graduated as Outstanding Graduate and Distinguished Graduate from F-16 initial qualification training. Colonel Watkins is a graduate of the Air Force’s Weapons Instructor Course, and he co-authored the first Air Tasking Orders for Operation ODYSSEY DAWN to launch the air campaign over Libya. Colonel Watkins led the 4th Fighter Squadron’s twelve F-16’s to Afghanistan as Director of Operations where he led the squadron in kinetic missions during the transition from Operation ENDURING FREEDOM to Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL. He served as the Commander, 34th Fighter Squadron during transition from the F-16 mission to stand-up of the first operational F-35A combat coded squadron, and met the requisites for the historic declaration of Initial Operational Capability by Commander Air Combat Command, 2 September 2016. His most recent assignment was Senior Air Force Advisor for Strategy and Force Development, Office of the Secretary of Defense.
He is a graduate of the National War College and a Command Pilot with more than 2,000 hours in the F-35A and the F-16 aircraft.
1999 B.S., Electrical Engineering, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Arizona
2004 Squadron Officer’s School, Maxwell AFB, Alabama
2006 NATO Tactical Leadership Program, Florennes, Belgium
2007 USAF Fighter Weapons School, Nellis AFB, Nevada
2011 M.A., International Relations, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma
2012 Masters of Military Operational Art and Science, Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama
2014 Air War College, by correspondence
2018 M.S., National Security Strategy, National War College, Fort McNair, Washington D.C.
2020 Senior National Security Fellowship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Washington D.C.
- Feb 2000 - Feb 2001, Executive Officer, 39th Operations Support Squadron, Incirlik AB, Turkey
- Feb 2001 - Jul 2002, Student, Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training, Sheppard AFB, Texas
- Jul 2002 - May 2003, Student, F-16 Initial Qualification Training, Luke AFB, Arizona
- May 2003 - May 2004, Assistant Chief of Scheduling, Osan Air Base, Korea
- May 2004 - Jul 2007, Chief of Evaluations and B Flight Commander, 510th FS, Aviano AB, Italy
- Jul 2007 - Dec 2007, Student, USAF Weapons Instructor Course, Nellis AFB, Nevada
- Dec 2007 - Jan 2010, Chief of Weapons and Tactics, 309th FS, Luke AFB, Arizona
- Jan 2010 – Jul 2012, Chief of Wing Weapons and Tactics, Aviano Air Base, Italy
- Jul 2012 – Jun 2013, Graduate Student, Air Command and Staff College
- Aug 2013 – Apr 2014, Inspector General, 388th Fighter Wing, Hill AFB, Utah
- Apr 2014 – Mar 2015, Director of Operations, 4th Fighter Squadron, Hill AFB, Utah
- Jul 2015 – Jun 2017, Commander, 34th Fighter Squadron, Hill AFB, Utah
- Aug 2017 – Jun 2018, Graduate Student, National War College, Fort McNair, Washington D.C.
- Jul 2018 – Jun 2020, Strategy and Force Development, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Washington D.C.
- Jul 2020 – Present, Commander, 56th Operations Group, Luke AFB, AZ
Rating: Command Pilot
Pilot hours: 2,960
Aircraft flown: F-35, T-37, T-38, F-16 C/D
MAJOR AWARDS AND DECORATIONS:
Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters
Air Force Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters
EFFECTIVE DATES OF PROMOTION:
Second Lieutenant Jan 11, 2000
First Lieutenant Jan 11, 2002
Captain Jan 11, 2004
Major Sep 1, 2009
Lieutenant Colonel Dec 1, 2013
Colonel Mar 1, 2019
(Current as of July 2020)