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158th FW flies south for winter, trains at Southern Lightning

Members assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard, take off from the Burlington Air National Guard Base, Vermont, in a C-130 Hercules, from the Montana Air National Guard, Jan. 22, 2020. More than 100 158th FW Airmen traveled to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to participate in a training event, titled Southern Lightning, to support flying operations and develop their skills during the training. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by  Master Sgt. Michael Davis)

Members assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard, take off from the Burlington Air National Guard Base, Vermont, in a C-130 Hercules, from the Montana Air National Guard, Jan. 22, 2020. More than 100 158th FW Airmen traveled to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to participate in a training event, titled Southern Lightning, to support flying operations and develop their skills during the training. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Michael Davis)

A U.S. Air Force crew chief, assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing's Maintenance Group, Vermont Air National Guard, prepares an F-35 Lightning II for departure from the Burlington Air National Guard Base, Vermont, Vt., Jan. 23, 2020. More than 100 158th FW Airmen traveled to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to participate in a training event, titled Southern Lightning, to support flying operations and develop their skills during the training. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Miss Julie M. Shea)

A U.S. Air Force crew chief, assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing's Maintenance Group, Vermont Air National Guard, prepares an F-35 Lightning II for departure from the Burlington Air National Guard Base, Vermont, Vt., Jan. 23, 2020. More than 100 158th FW Airmen traveled to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to participate in a training event, titled Southern Lightning, to support flying operations and develop their skills during the training. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Miss Julie M. Shea)

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Women and men of the 158th Fighter Wing of the Vermont Air National Guard are training at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, until late March for the Southern Lightning training event.

More than 100 Airmen from primarily maintenance and operations Groups will fly and maintain F-35 operations throughout the training period, developing their readiness while off-station.

“This is the first opportunity to take aircraft, equipment and personnel and practice in a new environment,” said Lt. Col. Ernest Tomasi, 158th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. “We are going to capitalize on our training and lessons learned and continue to improve our processes to be ready with the F-35.”

The Vermont Air National Guard received its first two F-35 Lightning II aircraft in September, and now has seven assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing. The full complement of 20 aircraft is to arrive in Vermont by summer.

As renovations to remaining flight line facilities continue and additional scheduled aircraft arrive in Vermont, the decision to conduct off-station training was planned to support flying requirements and maintain conversion timelines.

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