44th Fighter Group demonstrates fifth-gen air power, resilience on 10th Air Force tour

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jeremy Roman
  • 44th Fighter Group

The 44th Fighter Group hosted 10th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Bryan R. Radliff and Chief Master Sgt. Jeremy Malcolm, 10th Air Force command chief, for the first leg of a Florida airpower visit during a unit tour here on Jan. 7.

The 44 FG, which is a classic association partnered with the 325th Fighter Wing, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., is assigned to the 301st Fighter Wing, Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas. Their mission—to produce fifth-generation air dominance for the Combat Air Force—supports the F-22A Raptor fifth-generation aircraft and T-38A Talon Adversary aircraft.

The delegation was greeted by 44 FG Commander Col. Curtis L. Pitts, Chief Master Sgt. Kristy Long, 44 FG senior enlisted leader and his leadership team.

“We were pleased our NAF [Numbered Air Force] commander could see the 44 FG executing our mission of producing 5th generation combat capability here at Eglin with the F-22 FTU mission,” said Lt. Col Andrew Faulkner 44th Fighter Group deputy commander for operations. “Our members are excited to continue the 5th generation mission by transitioning back to Tyndall to integrate with the 325 FW to provide combat F-35 units to the CAF and the visit allowed us to highlight a few items we need help with from HHQ as we transition back to Tyndall.”

Radliff and Malcolm visited the Airmen and civilians in every office before heading to their first meeting which was then followed by a Coffee with Airmen session.

During the session, Radliff and Malcolm shared their stories, answered every question, provided strategic perspective, and wanted to know what 44 FG Airmen needed to do their jobs better.

I want you to feel connected to the mission, stay connected to each other, and don’t give up. Being an Air Force Reservist is not easy and I’m thankful for having each one of you in the Air Force Reserve said Radiff.

The tour continued as 10 AF leadership would visit every unit within the fighter group: the 44 FG Maintenance Squadron, the 301st Fighter Squadron and the 44 FG Aerospace Medicine Flight.

Escorted by 44 FG Maintenance Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Chad Fuentes, the distinguished visitors would see total force integration firsthand touring two hangars where the 44 FG MXS supports two airframes: the 325 FW’s F-22As and the 33d Fighter Wing’s F-35A Lightning II aircraft. The 33 FW is organized under 19th Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, and is an F-35 graduate flying and maintenance training wing. Having Radliff visit was important to Fuentes.

“One advantage of [his visit] was having the opportunity for him to hear directly from our Airmen, what concerns them and what challenges we face as an organization. From going through and recovering from hurricane Michael, to being told we may potentially shut down…or whether we will be moving [to another installation] or not…this organization has been through a lot,” said Fuentes. “Maj. Gen. Radliff reinforcing that [he has heard us] is a positive note and the next best step [we’re waiting for] will be seeing the documents [dating the when and how] of a transition back to Tyndall AFB. It was great to have him here.” 

The 301 FW was selected to receive AFRC’s first ever F-35A mission and is transitioning from the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the F-35 aircraft. As a geographically separated unit of the 301 FW, the 44 FG will also transition from the F-22 to the F-35 and has been already supporting the 33 FW’s F-35 mission. This valuable experience will help the 44 FG’s F-35 cadre team make the transition when they move back to Tyndall AFB. 44 FG MXS Aircraft Section Chief Senior Master Sgt. Kyle Umphrey, who is also the F-35 cadre lead, was able to talk to Radliff during the hangar visits.

“It was great to host Maj. Gen. Radliff and Command Chief Malcolm…to show them the mission we are doing here while securing the future of the 44th as we look to move back to Tyndall transitioning from F-22 to the F-35A Lightning II mission,” Umphrey said. “It’s been three years of trials since the hurricane and knowing he understands the issues like manning [shortages] and hiring freezes which impact us. It was good to hear the general’s perspective on these topics. It’s good to know that he cares about us, our future and that he is going to do whatever he can address our concerns.”

Before the tour ended, unit patches were exchanged and Radliff recognized two outstanding Airmen, Master Sgt. Matthew Bruhn, 44 FG MXS aircraft armament and Master Sgt. Bobby Ramirez, 44 FG first sergeant with his commander’s coin.

“Meeting our Airmen and seeing what they are doing is the best part of these trips,” Radliff said.

He also added how important it is to communicate to Airmen how they fit into mission, how what they do affects America and impacts what happens around the world.

This was Radliff’s first official visit to the 44 FG since becoming commander of Air Force Reserve Command’s most diverse numbered Air Force last June. Yet, he has a connection to both the 44th and Eglin AFB. From 1997-2000, he served as the 58th Fighter Squadron flight commander at Eglin AFB and also served as the 44 FG commander when they were located at Holloman AFB, N.M., from 2010-2011.

The second and final stop of the 10th Air Force leadership tour ended with a visit to the 919th Special Operations Wing, Duke Field, Fla., on Jan. 8.

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