February 12, 2007 (by SSgt Susan Stout) - Today, reservists from the 944th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB bid farewell to the last three F-16s after almost 20 years. The unit's F-16s are being reassigned to other locations on the recommendations of the BRAC.
Members of the AFRC's 944th FW at Luke AFB watch as the 302nd FS flagship passes for its final flight. The flagship will go on to become an aggressor at Nellis AFB. The 944th FW is home to two original Tuskegee Airmen squadrons, the 301st and 302nd FS. The 944th FW's 17 F-16s were reassigned to other units as part of BRAC actions. [USAF photo by SSgt. Susan Stout]
"This is like a family that's moving on," said Lt. Col. Donald Lindberg, the 302nd Fighter Squadron commander. He compared the emotions of the event to sending a child to college.
As part of the farewell on Feb. 12th 2007, the trio of planes performed a ceremonial flyover for the crowd of 944th Fighter Wing members, past and present, and their families before flying toward Las Vegas.
Two of the F-16s, piloted by Colonel Lindberg and Col. Derek Rydholm, the 944th FW commander, will become part of the aggressor squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
The third jet, flown by Maj. Mike Sharp, the 944th Operations Group deputy commander, will undergo maintenance at Hill AFB
, Utah, before being assigned to an Air National Guard unit in Tucson, Ariz.
Master Sgt. Bob Rydzynski, a 944th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, worked on these F-16s since they arrived from the factory in 1987.
"Today is an emotional day," he said. "On one hand I have a great feeling of pride seeing my jet fly, but at the same time, I know it's not coming back."
The 302nd Fighter Squadron, which traces its roots to the Tuskegee Airmen, will be inactivated at Luke AFB but will return to the Air Force Reserve Command when it stands up as an F-22 associate unit at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.
The 944th FW will continue its mission of training F-16 pilots.
(Courtesy Air Force Reserve Command News Service)