Florida Air Force Reserve group returns to the Tyndall skies

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zeeshan Naeem
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 44th Fighter Group, Air Force Reserve, conducted their first flying Unit Training Assembly at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, April 6, 2024, since returning to Tyndall. This training proved valuable for the pilots and maintainers by giving them hands-on experience with F-35A Lightning II’s and their first local sortie since departing Tyndall prior to Hurricane Michael.

The 44th FG is transitioning alongside the 325th Fighter Wing to become a fully capable fifth-generation aircraft combat unit, and these training experiences provide the framework needed to produce unrivaled combat airpower through mission-ready Airmen.

“Today was our first step toward being the fully-capable unit that we have been in the past,” said Master Sgt. Brian Posey, 44th Maintenance Squadron airframe powerplant general section chief. “It showed how resilient we have been since the hurricane; finally having the opportunity for our guys to go up and train is nice.”

The unit, assigned to the 301st Fighter Wing at Fort Worth, Texas, became an associate unit of the 325th FW in 2014. However, in 2018, the impact of Hurricane Michael initiated their relocation to Eglin AFB, Florida. The 44th FG operated the F-22 Raptor air frame until Tyndall’s transition to the F-35A was finalized. Soon thereafter, the 44th FG returned to Tyndall in April 2023.

“As a reserve member, after the storm, we went through ups and downs. We were unclear if we were going back to Tyndall or potentially getting shut down,” Posey explained. “From after the hurricane until April 2023, we integrated with the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin to begin training for our eventual return to Tyndall.”

The re-commencement of the group’s participation in hands-on training at Tyndall serves as another milestone for the 325th FW. Tyndall’s total-force maintainers and pilots built rapport and worked together to set the standard for future UTAs. Successful cooperation throughout the training also set the tone for future interoperability and integration with the 325th FW mission of projecting unrivaled combat airpower for America.

“The more you know who’s maintaining what you’re flying, the more confidence you have,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Benvenuto, 301st Fighter Squadron aircrew flight equipment craftsman. “Today boosted our morale and showcased [how] our hard work, through the adversity we’ve faced in the past couple of years, [has] come to fruition. Overall, I’m excited for our future as we continue to grow into a fully combat-coded wing.”