The 158th Fighter Wing (158 FW), a unit of the Vermont Air National Guard, hosted a welcome ceremony to celebrate the arrival of the first F-35 Lightning II aircraft to the wing, South Burlington Air National Guard Base, Vt., Oct. 19, 2019.
The 158th FW is the first Air National Guard unit to receive the Air Force’s most recent fifth generation aircraft, having received two in September out of a total of 20 that will arrive over the following several months.
Air Force Col. David Smith, commander of the 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard, Air Force Lt. Gen. Scott Rice, director of the Air National Guard, Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, Greg Ulmer, vice president and general manager of the F-35 program, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Patrick Leahy, senator for Vermont, Phil Scott, governor of Vermont and Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Knight, adjutant general of Vermont, were attended a welcome ceremony to celebrate the arrival of the F-35 Lightning II to the wing.
“Of all the people we recognize today, our leaders, our supporters, our community stakeholders, by far the most significant attendees today are our airmen,” said Adj. Gen. Gregory Knight. “You make the aircraft fly.”
Airman Lt. Col. Nate Graber says the fifth- generation fighters put our country one step ahead of our enemies.
“The threats that are out there to the nation are becoming more technologically advanced. They’re becoming graver threats, if you will,” Lt. Col. Graber said. “It’s an amazing honor to be part of the force that really is out there to be able to kind of combat those growing threats.”
“The information provided to the pilot in the F-35 is right in his helmet. So as he turns his head or moves his vision around, all that information moves with him. So it really allows him very high situational awareness,” added Greg Ulmer, the Vice President and General Manager of the F-35 Program out of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
As the first fighter wing to receive the F-35 Lighting II, Guard officials say Vermont is paving the way for stronger partnerships between the Air Force and the Air National Guard, ultimately better protecting the United States from adversaries.
“We’ve created the template that we’ve shared with the states that will follow us,” said Col. David Smith, Commander of the 158th Fighter Wing.