September 29, 2017 (by Donovan K. Potter) - Hundreds cheered the historic arrival of the 4th Fighter Squadron’s and 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit’s first F-35A as tail number 5133 landed on base Wednesday and taxied into Hotel Row.
Members of the 388th FW’s 4th AMU drag chocks as Lt. Col Yosef Morris, 4th FS Commander prepared to deplane after he flew the jet to Hill AFB from the Lockheed Martin factory on September 27. This is the 4th FS/AMU first F-35 assigned. [USAF photo by Todd Cromar]
It was a big event as Staff Sgt. Timothy Ericksen, 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief for Hill’s newest Lightning II, directed Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th Fighter Squadron commander, to the designated parking spot.
“It's an absolute honor to brining this aircraft home,” Morris said. “We have hundreds of maintainers, pilots and support personnel who have been working diligently to transit on the 4th AMU and the 4th FS
to F-35 operations. I'm incredibly excited to be a part of giving that transition its first tangible asset as we all build the next operation F-35 unit together.”
Currently the 4th AMU has maintenance control over six aircraft from the 388th Fighter Wing partner 34th, and Capt. Cheyenne Clement, 4th AMU officer in charge said he appreciates the F-35 training his people received from the 34th AMU, but nothing beats working on their own aircraft.
“In the last year and a half, we have prepared for this very moment,” Clement said. “This aircraft arrival symbolizes all our hard work finally coming together. It marks the beginning of the Fighting Fuujins coming back to the fight; delivering combat airpower around the world at a moment’s notice.”
Ericksen, who has been working F-35s for the past two years and whose name will be on the side of the plane, said it’s a privilege to catch the 4th AMU’s first jet and looks forward to making sure all the maintenance is completed as he employs the skills he learned from the 34th AMU.
“This jet marks the end of an era and the start of the future for the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings,” Morris said. “Both wings are now one hundred percent F-35 units, with the last F-16s leaving the base last week. We established a long, proud history of F-16 operations, supporting our country around the world for four decades. The arrival of the first 4th Fighter Squadron F-35 is the beginning of the next 40-year chapter for the Fuujins.”
“If receiving a brand new jet, fresh off the production line, and preparing it to protect our nation isn’t every maintainer’s dream, I don’t know what is,” Clement said.
The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill AFB
in October 2015. Hill currently has 27 F-35As and will eventually be home to 78 aircraft and three operational squadrons by the end of 2019. The 388th and 419th FWs fly and maintain the aircraft in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of the active duty and Reserve.