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Commanders of ACC, AFRC visit Hill AFB to celebrate F-35 success

Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, watches as an Airman puts on a helmet.

Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, watches an aircrew flight equipment demonstration during a visit to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Feb. 20, 2020. Holmes visited the base to participate in a ceremony recognizing the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing and reserve 419th Fighter Wing for reaching “full warfighting capability” with the F-35A Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Lt. Gen. Richard W. Scobee, Air Force Reserve Command commander and chief of Air Force Reserve, speaks at a Full Warfighting Capability Ceremony at Hill Air Force Base

Lt. Gen. Richard W. Scobee, commander of Air Force Reserve Command and chief of Air Force Reserve, speaks during a ceremony for reaching the “full warfighting capability” with the F-35 A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Feb. 20, 2020. Full warfighting capability denotes success in three key areas: fully trained pilots and maintainers, a full complement of 78 aircraft and the support equipment needed to fly them. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Tech. Sgt. Matthew Ruggiero (middle), 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, left, and  Command Chief Master Sgt. David W. Wade, command chief of ACC, look over equipment on a table located in a hangar at Hill AFB. The nose of an F-35A Lightning II can be seen in the background.

Tech. Sgt. Matthew Ruggiero, 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, center, briefs Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, left, and Command Chief Master Sgt. David W. Wade, command chief of ACC, during a visit to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Feb. 20, 2020. Holmes and Wade visited the base to participate in a ceremony recognizing the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing and reserve 419th Fighter Wing for reaching “full warfighting capability” with the F-35A Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, and two other Airmen change a tire on an F-35 Lightning II.

Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, works an F-35A Lightning II tire change with Airmen assigned to the 388th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Feb. 20, 2020. Holmes visited the base to participate in a ceremony recognizing the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing and reserve 419th Fighter Wing for reaching “full warfighting capability” with the F-35A Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AFNS) -- Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, and Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee, commander of Air Force Reserve Command and chief of the Air Force Reserve, paid a visit to the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing and reserve 419th Fighter Wing to help commemorate a key milestone in F-35A Lightning II operations.

The Feb. 20 ceremony marked the 388th FW and 419th FW reaching “full warfighting capability,” which denotes success in three key areas: fully trained pilots and maintainers, a full complement of 78 aircraft and the support equipment needed to fly them.

Holmes addressed the Airmen from both wings, lauding their accomplishments with the aircraft, including additional deployments to Europe and the Pacific. He said they have “answered all the critics” in proving the jet’s capabilities.

“People said you wouldn’t make it. People said you couldn’t get it done in the time frame we set out. People said there were too many problems yet to be worked out with the airplane,” Holmes said. “And yet, pretty much on schedule, here we are.”

The 388th and 419th fighter wings are the Air Force’s only combat-capable F-35 units. Together, they fly and maintain the jet in a total force partnership, which plays on the strengths of both the active-duty and reserve.

Holmes called the F-35 one of the most “sophisticated, exquisite” machines ever made, and praised the Airmen for their crucial role in bringing it to full warfighting capability.

“We couldn’t be more proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished,” he said.

Scobee also addressed the Airmen, thanking them for their diligent work in making the F-35 program a success. He also noted he has seen “no better feat of engineering” than the F-35 during his time in the Air Force.

“This is an awesome day and it’s an awesome accomplishment,” Scobee said. “It takes a full-functioning team to be able to accomplish something like this, and that’s what has happened in these two wings.”

“The F-35 gives the Air Force and its allies the power to dominate the multi-domain, full spectrum of warfare that we’ll have to be able to do anytime, anywhere,” he said.

The wings received the first operational F-35s in 2015 and have since participated in multiple exercises both stateside and overseas. Last year, the wings began supporting combat operations with consecutive F-35 deployments to the Middle East.

“No matter how good that airplane is, no matter how impressive a scientific and technological marvel it is, it doesn’t become a weapon of war until we give it to you,” Holmes said. “You have produced a combat power that no one has ever known across the history of the world.”