August 9, 2011 (by Capt. Larry Farrell) - Fly--Fight--Win: three words that define our focus, our duty and our purpose. For a fighter pilot, every sortie - every bomb or bullet on target - every minute of reconnaissance vividly represents those words. And each successive "Mission Complete" sharpens their commitment to get the job done.
Brig. Gen. Kurt Neubauer, 332nd AEW commander, taxis after surpassing the 4,000th flying hour mark in the F-16 on August 1st, 2011. [USAF photo by SrA. Jeffrey Schultze]
This is especially true for Brig. Gen. Kurt F. Neubauer
, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Tuskegee Airmen commander, who Aug. 1 notched his 4,000th hour of flight at the stick of the F-16 "Fighting Falcon", or as it is more affectionately known, the "Viper."
The pressures of leading a combat mission, the austerity of an unforgiving environment and the enduring threat of enemy action did little to affect the general's achievement as he joined a very elite company.
A number of Joint Base Balad personnel - undeterred by 123 degree heat - came out to congratulate him on the milestone.
How did he feel after the engine cut off?
"Grateful," said Neubauer. "Hitting the 4,000 hour mark as Red Tail 1 was beyond words and seeing the crowd out there was a scene I'll forever remember."
His milestone realized the general reflected upon past, present and future combat aviators as well as his place within the community at-large.
"To the combat pilots of the past, thank you for showing the way; to today's, seize the day with gusto. To tomorrow's, persevere," he said.
Joining Neubauer as his wingman was Lt. Col. Robert D. "Sparky" Whitehouse
, 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group deputy commander, who reached 3,000 flight hours in the F-16 more than a month ago.
"Whitehouse and I served together at Luke Air Force Base," said Neubauer. "He's a superb officer and a great fighter pilot."
When asked if he would have ever envisioned this moment more than 30 years ago, the general did not mince words.
"Not in a million years," he said. "Lt. Neubauer just wanted to be the best wingman in the 430th Tactical Fighter Squadron."
"I'm thankful to the Air Force for granting me the honor to serve as an Airman and fighter pilot for over thirty years," he continued. "I'm thankful to my fellow fighter pilots and the Airmen I have served with over all those years for their example - stick, rudder, heart and soul - and giving so much to our Air Force. Lastly, I'm thankful to the Tuskegee Airmen for their courage, character and sacrifice."