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44th Fighter Group becomes part of Team Holloman

April 15, 2010 (by A1C Sondra Escutia) - The Air Force Reserve Command's 44th Fighter Group officially stood up at Holloman April 9, 2010, with an activation ceremony and passing of the historic group's guidon.

Col. Donald Lindberg assumes command of the 44th FG from Maj. Gen. Frank Padilla, 10th AF commander, during an activation ceremony on April 9th, 2010. The 44th FG is the only Air Force Reserve organization to be selected to fly the F-22 Raptor. [USAF photo by SrA. DeAndre Curtiss]

The 44th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 301st Fighter Squadron were also activated in the ceremony and will fall under the 44th FG's command.

Maj. Gen. Frank Padilla, 10th Air Force commander, presided over the ceremony. He addressed Holloman's new citizen Airmen and spoke about the challenging nature of integrating Air Force active-duty and Reserve components that make up the Total Force Integration team.

"Sometimes, TFI is just plain hard ... but it is the hard that makes it great," General Padilla said.

Despite its hardships, he said the "three great commanders" who were chosen to stand up the units at Holloman have done an impressive job. The 44th FG, which began with four people in 2008, now employs 154 people and is slated to have an end strength of 330 people.

"Congratulations to each and every one of you for what you've done to build this great Total Force Integration relationship out here at Holloman," he said, facing the three commanders seated behind him.

After being passed the 44th FG guidon, Col. Donald Lindberg thanked General Padilla for entrusting him with the mission of Air Combat Command's only Air Force Reserve Command F-22 Raptor association.

He gave a heartfelt thanks to his large family in the audience and to those who were not able to make it, and stressed the importance of his family to his career. He also thanked the 49th Fighter Wing commander for accepting the 44th FG as part of Team Holloman.

"I have to thank Col. Harrigian ... and my fellow group commanders because the fact is, they've adopted us as reservists," Colonel Lindberg said with sincerity. "We are now heirs to the mission as Team Holloman. That doesn't come easy to people that have some scar tissue, but they had faith and confidence and here we stand today."

Behind the hundreds of guests in the crowd sat two F-22 Raptors, one of which was painted with a 44th FG tail flash and one with a 301st FS. Colonel Lindberg mentioned that these two tail flashes symbolized the "partnership between the 49th Fighter Wing and the 44th Fighter Group."

He also gave mention to the Tuskegee Airmen and 44th Bomb Group veterans -- or as they were once called, "the flying eight-balls" -- who sat in the audience. One of the veterans, retired Capt. Arthur Kleiderer, received a Distinguished Flying Cross, first oak leaf cluster during the ceremony for his achievement while participating in aerial flight during his time with the 44th Bombardment Group -- October 1944 to May 1945.

"We've got some phenomenal heritage sitting here beside you. Those that sit there are highly decorated, and today, we're going to present a decoration that has been long overdue," said Colonel Lindberg. "That's a heritage, flying eight-balls, that you guys are going to inherit."

After receiving his first salute as 44th FG commander, Colonel Lindberg handed the 301st FS guidon over to Lt. Col. Kent Furman. Colonel Furman echoed Colonel Lindberg's sentiments about the veterans who were present, as the Tuskegee Airmen were originally associated with the 301st.

"I'm humbled and honoured to in the presence of some great warriors -- men who faced not only on the ground but in the air, insurmountable challenges -- missions that were flown through such formidable defences and targets that there were over 50 percent loss rates," Colonel Furman explained.

The Tuskegee Airmen, who flew over the skies of Europe during World War II, were known for never having lost a bomber they escorted through enemy fire, and Colonel Furman said he hopes his squadron will continue their rich heritage.

"To the Tuskegee Airmen ... rest assured that the 301st FS of today, flying the Air Force's premier air dominance fighter, the F-22, trains and stands ready to continue that legacy if called to do so," said the Rutgers University graduate.

He then addressed the citizen Airmen of 301st FS, saying he was honoured and humbled to be their commander, and offered them a challenge.

"I take this job seriously," Colonel Furman said. I will take care of you and I will lead you. Have no doubt in that. But I challenge each and every one of you. The challenge is to juggle three pieces of your life --your military side, your civilian employer if you choose to do so, and your family. It's a fine balance."

Finally, the last guidon was passed from Colonel Lindberg to Maj. William Magee, who was charged with the responsibility of leading the Airmen of the 44th AMXS in support of maintaining the 49th FW's F-22 fleet. After assuming command of the squadron, Major Magee began his speech with a quote relevant to his new responsibilities.

"Luke 12:48 says 'to whom much is given, much is expected' and what I've been given certainly fits in the category of 'much,' Major Magee said. "Because I've been given such an honour, I realize much will be expected of me. The men and women of the 44th AMXS deserve the best, and I intend to give them all I have."

The major, who previously commanded the 917th Maintenance Squadron at Barksdale AFB, La., said that while operational readiness inspections and exercises are important, the goal of the 44th AMXS will be to provide combat-ready aircraft with bombs, missiles and bullets to the flying squadrons so they can carry out the combatant commander's objective.

"We are in the business of war, and we must keep ourselves and our aircraft ready at all times," Major Magee said. "The 44th AMXS is on the right path. Its members are patriots, citizen soldiers, who provide a combat-ready force, who are well-trained and motivated. I'm honored to have the opportunity to serve beside them and to command this great squadron."

In keeping with tradition, the members of the 44th AMXS saluted their new commander, concluding the ceremony.

Courtesy of 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Additional images:

Lt. Col. Kent Furman assumes command of the 301st FS from Col. Donald Lindberg, 44th FG commander, during an activation ceremony on April 9th, 2010. [USAF photo by SrA. DeAndre Curtiss]