Air Force F-35 lead encourages JSUPT 15-12 grads

  • Published
  • By David Poe
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force's F-35 boss touched down at Vance last week to address the force's newest aviators and tour training facilities.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, the Air Force F-35 Integration Office director, told Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 15-12 graduates and their families that the Air Force's future is bright because today's young pilots are inherently innovative.

The command pilot with more than 4,100 flight hours is responsible for integrating F-35 activities across air staff directorates and across other Department of Defense agencies as well. The next-generation fighter is set to roll out in 2016 according to an April Reuters story. 

Along with the kudos from the Pentagon and a gratefulness for "not having to fight District of Columbia traffic" during his trip to Enid, Harrigian reminded 15-12 graduates, many of whom will fly a vast array of cargo and refueling platforms, that while graduating JSUPT is a milestone, it was only the first round of challenges in support of a nation facing enemies in multiple, non-traditional theaters.

"I do think it's important to remember that as you get ready to walk out the door, we are at war," he said. "It's a dynamic, very complex environment that you're going to walk out into, and you're going to be ready to take on that challenge. 

"While today there's going to be a lot of high-fiving, as this is a very proud moment, I would look at it as winning the first (playoff) series while going to the championship," Harrigian said. "Recognize that it's a marathon, and you guys are the right folks to succeed in whatever airplane you are moving onto next."

Harrigian also saluted the families in attendance and thanked them for their care in raising and fostering the character of the newest members of the fraternity of aviators.

"It goes beyond the foundations of what you taught them growing up, it's really about the importance of service and doing something greater for your nation than just taking care of yourself ," he said.  "I also want to thank the spouses. I met my wife during pilot training, and she's amazingly stuck around for 28 years. I know there's sacrifice there, and I know there's a commitment to this service, so I just want to thank you for signing up for this and just being part of the team."

As part of his address, he reminded the pilots of the importance of a "work-life balance" - a culture he said didn't exist when he received his wings as a member of class 86-08.

"As you go forward, and particularly when you deploy to different places, you keep some perspective on this. And I ask you to do that - take care of yourself, because we need you guys," he said. "When you get to your next training, ask all of the hard questions. Pick the brains of those captains and majors that you're flying with. Become as smart as you can on your weapons system. Be an expert."