HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee, Air Force Reserve Command commander and chief of the Air Force Reserve, paid a visit to the 419th Fighter Wing to help commemorate a key milestone in F-35A Lightning II operations here.
Scobee joined Gen. Mike Holmes, Commander of Air Combat Command, during a ceremony Feb. 20 that marked the 388th FW and 419th FW reaching “full warfighting capability,” which denotes success in three key areas: fully trained pilots and maintainers, a full complement of 78 aircraft, and the support equipment needed to fly them.
“This is an awesome day and it’s an awesome accomplishment,” Scobee said to a crowd of hundreds of Airmen and community leaders. “It takes a full-functioning team to be able to accomplish something like this, and that’s what has happened in these two wings.”
The 388th and 419th are the Air Force’s only combat-capable F-35 units. Together, they fly and maintain the jet in a Total Force partnership, which plays on the strengths of both the active duty and Reserve.
Scobee thanked the Airmen for their diligent work in making the F-35 program here a success. He also noted he has seen “no better feat of engineering” than the F-35 during his time in the Air Force.
“The F-35 gives the Air Force and its allies the power to dominate the multi-domain, full spectrum of warfare that we’ll have to be able to do anytime, anywhere,” he said.
The wings received the first operational F-35s in 2015 and have since participated in multiple exercises both stateside and overseas. Last year, the wings began supporting combat operations with consecutive F-35 deployments to the Middle East.
Holmes also addressed the Airmen, lauding their accomplishments with the aircraft, including additional deployments to Europe and the Pacific. He said they have “answered all the critics” in proving the jet’s capabilities.
“People said you wouldn’t make it, people said you couldn’t get it done in the timeframe we set out, people said there were too many problems yet to be worked out with the airplane,” Holmes said. “And yet, pretty much on schedule, here we are.”
Holmes called the F-35 one of the most “sophisticated, exquisite” machines ever made, and praised the Airmen for their crucial role in bringing it to full warfighting capability.
“No matter how good that airplane is, no matter how impressive a scientific and technological marvel it is, it doesn’t become a weapon of war until we give it to you,” he said. “You have produced a combat power that no one has ever known across the history of the world.”
“The 419th and the Reserve Command have been in the fighter business for a long time,” Scobee noted. “And we’re honored to be able to work here with our [active duty] sisters and brothers getting the F-35 where it is today.”
The Air Force Reserve unit has maintained a continuous flying mission at Hill since 1955.
Before the ceremony, 419th FW leaders briefed Scobee on all aspects of the 419th – home to nearly 1,300 reservists who train in a variety of specialties beyond F-35 operations and maintenance, to include civil engineering, security forces, medical, firefighting, security forces, and more.
Scobee also made time to meet with some of the wing’s younger officers and enlisted personnel for a small group lunch where Airmen could ask questions. The general relayed stories from his Air Force career, outlined command priorities, and gave advice based on his personal experience.