Luke AFB hosts honorary commanders at Gila Bend overnight

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mason Hargrove
  • 56th Fighter Wing

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. – The 56th Fighter Wing hosted more than 50 honorary commanders for an immersive overnight experience, Oct. 26, 2023, at Barry M. Goldwater Range (BMGR), Arizona.

The event served as an immersive experience for the 56th Fighter Wings honorary commanders, offering them a glimpse into the precision and capabilities of air and ground assets that utilize the Barry M. Goldwater range.

HCCs observed strafing and bombing runs by F-35 Lightning IIs assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing, F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 21st Fighter Squadron, HH-60W Jolly Green IIs from the 55th Rescue Squadron and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs assigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

“Our engagement with the honorary commanders is crucial in fostering trust and understanding with the community,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jason Shaffer, 56th Fighter Wing command chief. “Witnessing the demonstrations at Gila Bend is just one of the many ways we’re strengthening these bonds.”

For ground demonstrations, commanders received demonstrations and learned about the roles of environmentalist that work to preserve wildlife and history on the 1.1-million-acre BMGR East acre range. 

The 56th Fighter Wing’s honorary commander program serves as a bridge between the military and the surrounding community. The program aims to shed light on its mission and priorities by inviting local, regional, and national community leaders into the fold of our daily missions.

Following the aerial displays, the group transitioned to the Chris Glyphs archaeological site, providing an educational experience as they hiked and delved into Native American history.

After dinner back in Gila Bend, the honorary commanders finished up the event by returning to Barry M. Goldwater Range for night operations, where they observed the nocturnal precision of the F-35 Lightning IIs assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing, HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopters from the 55th Rescue Squadron and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from Davis-Monthan AFB.

“This event is one of the most talked about events that we do in the Honorary Commander program here at Luke,” said Brig. Gen. Jason Rueschhoff, 56th Fighter Wing commander. “It provides an outstanding opportunity for our community leaders to see how we train the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat-ready airman every single day on our installation. I could not be prouder and more appreciative of the team that helped put this fantastic event together!”

The overnight event at Gila Bend highlighted Luke AFB’s commitment to advance partnerships and strengthen its bonds with the community around it.

“This was a great experience. The air-to-ground demonstrations were remarkable, and it was fantastic to spend time with the other honorees learning about everything happening at the range in our backyard,” said Ginna Carico, 425th Fighter Squadron Honorary Commander.”