56FW/CC, wife bid farewell to Thunderbolts

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Robin Rand
  • Luke 1
Fellow Thunderbolts - it's been my highest honor to serve with each of you in Fighter Country these past two years! Trust me when I say, it's very difficult for Kim and I to say good bye to such an extraordinary group of warriors, fellow Air Force active and civilian wingmen, and wonderful community friends. I'm so very proud of you and your service, sacrifices, and long list of spectacular accomplishments. "Wow," is the best description I can think of right now!

You great Airmen are the legacy upon which our Air Force of today is built and you're the key to the success of this richly historic wing. As I've said hundreds of times over the past two years, "Our Airmen and their families are the best men and women our nation has to offer."

Because of your collective efforts, the Air Force's largest fighter wing has superbly "trained the world's greatest F-16 fighter pilots and maintainers, while deploying mission ready warfighters." Together, we graduated more than 900 F-16 fighter pilots and 900 F-16 crew chiefs. How fitting that tonight we add to that number as we send nine more new "Top Dog" trained fighter pilots out into the Combat Air Force to do America's work. The heart of the F-16 training mission lies not in the hard metal frame or superior technology -- it is found in the "every day" men and women that maintain, fly and support the outstanding "Viper" jet.

Because of every assigned Thunderbolt, our upgrading fighter pilots are receiving the most realistic combat training possible. Equally important, we've raised the bar when it comes to deploying mission ready Airmen in support of the Global War on Terror. Again, because of you, Luke Airmen have arrived in theater better trained and prepared than ever before! The Expeditionary Thunderbolt Training has ensured more than 1,600 Thunderbolts were fully prepared to support operations around the world. I salute everyone who has deployed, including your families who supported you, as well as the countless number of professionals across the wing, active duty and civilian, who trained and prepared you so well. You demonstrated this expeditionary mindset by the way you embraced fitness as an operational necessity.

The Wing Warrior Wellness program wasn't about passing a test, but instead about leading a healthy life and making us true Warrior Airmen, ready to deploy. To help all of us stay fit, I'm very grateful to everyone who was responsible in opening the new east fitness annex, and am happy to report we're securing funds right now to renovate and rubberize our track.

Before closing, I'd be terribly remiss if I didn't mention the outstanding support and cooperation we receive from our community leaders in the West Valley, Fighter Country Partnership and from citizens around the state of Arizona. One extraordinary example of how the "spirit of true community support" exists is the Arizona Diamondbacks and APS are sponsoring the renovation of a new Fighter Country Youth Ball field that will be complete this Fall.

To our wonderful hosts, the citizens of Arizona, you are so important to the long-term viability of the base and I thank you for your efforts and hard work. Kim and I will always treasure the special friendships we have made during our time here. Trust me, we plan to come back one day!

At every newcomers brief, I always closed with four pieces of advice: Do something to make Fighter Country better, do something to make yourself better, take care of each other and maintain our Air Force standards of excellence. They're easy words to pass along, but it takes grit and determination to achieve.

As I leave Luke, I stand in awe of the way the Thunderbolts have conducted themselves these past two years. It's been extremely rewarding because of people like you who do such extraordinary things. You make it look so effortless. In reality, I have the easiest job at Luke. I'm not the one who has to train the pilot on his first flight in the F-16, fix the jets on a hot summer afternoon, care for our sick Airmen and their families, or provide round the clock force protection for our base.

Nor am I the person who gets the call at 2 a.m. to go fix a broken waterline. And I don't keep our critical computer network running, man the command center 24/7, operate all our family support and service facilities, or prepare and serve hundreds of meals everyday for our hungry and hard working Airmen.

I could go on, but hopefully you get the point. What each and everyone of you do at Luke is absolutely crucial to our overall mission. From the bottom of my heart -- thank you. No wing commander could ask for better wingmen than you! Simply, you are truly "World Class!" Brigadier General-select Tom Jones and his wife, Deb, arrive with their children, Tommy and Dani, Saturday. They are a great Air Force family and General Jones is an exceptional leader and gentleman. You will be blessed by his leadership, as he will be by your service and sacrifices. So Thunderbolts, the time has come for Kim and I to say "so long." We do so reluctantly -- We will miss you dearly! God bless you, and forever remember, "Beware the Thunderbolt!"