173rd FW hosts newly appointed 19th AF Commander

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

The new 19th Air Force Commander visited the 173rd Fighter Wing to see firsthand the operations at the schoolhouse providing all of the F-15C air superiority training to the U.S. Air Force, Sept. 10, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig Wills assumed his command June 13 and prioritized making a visit to the rural, southern Oregon base.

“It’s important to get out and see what is going on at our different flying training locations,” said Wills. “That’s why I made it a priority to come out here.”

His visit included opportunities for the command to brief him on the current state of operations, including a busy construction schedule stretching into the next several years.

“We are ready to start the most complex project we’ve ever undertaken,” said Joe Young, a base civil engineer. “Essentially we are going to replace every bit of concrete you see,” he said while standing on the ramp with Wills.

That project will begin in earnest next summer and is large enough to require contractors to build their own concrete mixing plant on the air field in order to have the required supply to finish the project, said Young.

For Wills, the visit is part of overseeing his flying training mission, which spans all of the flying training for the U.S. Air Force. In many respects, his command is the largest customer of the 173rd Fighter Wing as the majority of pilots that train here are active-duty. 

For the wing it was an opportunity to discuss the state of operations and what items are high profile where the mission is concerned. For this trip, the pending construction is front and center with the concrete project, as well as the scheduled groundbreaking for a new corrosion control facility, and an airport project to repave all the taxi ways as well. The flying mission will continue as planned, but the command says it never hurts to keep everyone in the loop should the need for flexibility arise.

Another critical aspect of the tour was showing Wills the expansive airspace range Kingsley Field has available. Kingsley’s airspace is nearly the size of the Nellis Air Force Base range complex and boasts far less traffic. Additionally, it lies in close proximity to tanker support and meets the criteria for fifth generation flying training.

Wills saw this first-hand in the back seat of an F-15 Eagle, something he’s familiar with as a rated F-15 pilot in C, D, and E models with more than 2,500 flight hours.