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Eglin wing transitions to become first F-35 training unit

Marine Col. Arthur Tomassetti and two flights under his command at the redesignation ceremony marking the standup of the Air Force's first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter training unit Oct. 1, 2009, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The 33rd Fighter Wing now align under Air Education and Training Command and will be responsible for training pilots and mechanics on the F-35. Colonel Tomassetti is the 33rd Fighter Wing vice commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg Murry)

Marine Col. Arthur Tomassetti and two flights under his command at the redesignation ceremony salute marking the standup of the Air Force's first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter training unit Oct. 1, 2009, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The 33rd Fighter Wing will now align under Air Education and Training Command and will be responsible for training pilots and mechanics on the F-35. Colonel Tomassetti is the 33rd Fighter Wing vice commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg Murry)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- Members of the 33rd Fighter Wing here transitioned from an operational F-15 Eagle unit to the first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter training unit during a ceremony Oct. 1 at Eglin Air Force Base.

Col. David Hlatky assumed command of Air Education and Training Command's newest wing whose mission is to safely and efficiently train pilots and maintainers for the fifth-generation fighter.

"American air dominance didn't get to where it is today by accident," Colonel Hlatky said. "Eglin is the right place (to continue that dominance) with its ranges."

Prior to the redesignation, members of the 33rd FW were assigned under Air Combat Command's 9th Air Force and was the largest tenant unit on Eglin AFB.

Maj. Gen. Gregory A. Feest, the 19th Air Force commander, explained what was in store during the unit's next phase.

"Today begins a new chapter for the (33rd FW members) under AETC," General Feest said. "You will continue the air dominance legacy for the 33rd."

General Feest also talked about how the work starts now for the wing even though the first F-35 doesn't arrive until August 2010. The first task is to stand up the operations and maintenance groups Oct. 2.

"We are AETC's newest joint and combined team," Colonel Hlatky said to the two flights of Airmen, Sailors and Marines that stood before him. "You were chosen because of your unique capabilities and experience to be part of this new mission."

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