July 9, 2008 (by Justin Oakes) - The 56th FW is officially under new leadership as Col. Kurt Neubauer assumed command from Brig. Gen. Tom Jones during a change of command ceremony at Luke AFB, July 9.
Maj. Gen. Irving Halter Jr., 19th Air Force commander, served as the reviewing official during the ceremony.
After two years of exemplary leadership, training more than 400 of the world's greatest F-16 fighter pilots and more than 470 maintainers annually, General Jones passes the responsibility of leading the world's largest active-duty F-16 training base to Colonel Neubauer.
Colonel Neubauer is neither unfamiliar nor a stranger to Luke.
"It's great to be back at Luke," said Colonel Neubauer. "We left here twenty years ago and coming back is like drinking from the fountain of youth."
The new commander further elaborated on why he was excited to return.
"This place oozes character," Colonel Neubauer said. "It's all around us, in the swagger of our fighter jocks, the bloody knuckles of our maintainers, the tilted berets on our security forces defenders, the dusty boots of our communications troops and the grit of our engineers -- just to name a few. They all wear a very special patch -- the Thunderbolt patch."
Colonel Neubauer emphasized that Luke is special because of its people. He pointed out that the men and women of the 56th FW are a symbol of America's best.
"They're people of character -- bright, eager, disciplined people who pledge to do hard stuff in hard places," the colonel said.
Prior to Col. Neubauer taking command, General Jones rose to address the Thunderbolts one last time.
"To the Thunderbolts - thanks for giving me the experience of a lifetime," he said. "Through good times and bad, and we've had both, you've been a world class outfit. You've supplied the combat Air Force with much needed fighter pilots and maintainers and more than a thousand of you have deployed to areas all over the world in answer to our nation's call. You've won numerous awards at both the individual and organizational level, and you are recognized around our command and our Air Force as the best we have to offer. It's been a true pleasure serving with you. God bless each of you, our Air Force and our great nation."
As the crowd bid a fond farewell to General Jones, Colonel Neubauer left the men and women of Luke with his final thoughts.
"I stand a little taller and hold my head higher just from being among you," he said. "Your example, your character points me to a higher place. You have my word that I will serve you with all my energy."
Joining him at the ceremony were Col. Neubauer's family, which includes Sandy, his wife; daughter, Kirsten; and son, Derek.