ACC Commander pays rare visit to 173rd Fighter Wing

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

The commander of Air Combat Command, made his first visit to the 173rd Fighter Wing, Feb. 4-6, 2019, to see operations at the sole provider of F-15C air superiority pilots in the U.S. Air Force.

General Mike Holmes is responsible for all the combat units in the Air Force and as such is very significant stakeholder in the wing’s mission, which makes it natural for him to come and see operations here despite the fact that this training mission falls under the auspices of Air Education and Training Command.

Over three days he visited with Airmen and got up close and personal with the F-15 aircraft where 173rd Fighter Wing Airmen took him from the top wing surface to beneath the landing gear bay.

Holmes is a command pilot with more than 4,000 hours in F-15 variants A, B, C, D, and E—that’s every F-15 in the U.S. arsenal.

“I flew the F-15C … before converting to the Strike Eagle, but all of that was before 9/11,” he said.

With that in mind Kingsley maintainers gave him a first-hand view of the modern configuration of components and wiring in the F-15C. Considering his level of experience combined with his degree in electrical engineering it presumably makes it easier to understand the myriad boxes with bundles of wires spider-webbed across them.

It is rare for the ACC commander to visit this AETC wing, but Holmes explained to a group of local civic leaders that the entire inventory of U.S. Air Force combat aircraft fall under his purview including 173rd Fighter Wing F-15s. In a manner of speaking he’s here to look at his airplanes. It also provided a chance to meet with one unit of the 173rd Fighter Wing who many are surprised to find out does fall under his command—the 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron.

The 270th ATCS has a robust deployed mission supporting combatant commanders by providing air traffic control services in the area of operations, and Holmes made it a point to stop by and see some of their members, several of whom had just returned from a six-month deployment to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

After meeting with Airmen, senior non-commissioned officers, commanders and local civic leaders it was time to take a ride of his own and Col. Geoff Jensen, the operations group commander, took him aloft in the back seat where he saw the ample range space Kingsley Field utilizes as well as its clear flying weather.

“As an experienced pilot Gen. Holmes appreciated the limited impact of civilian traffic in the local area and valued the close proximity of great airspace to the airfield,” said Jensen after the flying the general to the range space. His trip ended later that day marking the end of yet another high-profile visit to Kingsley Field, closely following the Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson.