Seeing the F-35 Future at Eglin

One of the senior leaders for the new F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter training unit being set up at Eglin AFB, Fla., already is at work. Navy Capt. Mike Saunders, who will serve as the deputy commander for the 33rd Operations Group, has been observing the work of the F-35 Joint Site Activation Task Force and the current operators at the 33rd Fighter Wing, which is in the process of shedding its F-15 force as it transforms into the F-35 joint schoolhouse. Saunders has Navy Fighter Weapons School and Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center training experience and 4,000 flying hours in fighters. Saunders said of the joint nature of the F-35 training program, “Understanding each other’s capabilities is critical to being able to effectively employ together.” He will be working with Air Force Col. James Ravella, who arrives at Eglin next month. On Oct. 1, the wing will have a new commander, an Air Force colonel, and a new vice commander, a Marine Corps colonel. (Eglin report by Chrissy Cuttita)