MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing received its first F-35 Lightning II aircraft April 25, making it only the second Air National Guard unit with the advanced fighter.
The fifth-generation fighters flown by pilots Capt. John Lorbiecki, Maj. Jacob Jerzewski, Maj. Joe Pavela and Lt. Col. Michael Koob were greeted by members of the 115th FW, friends, and state and community leaders as they landed for the first time at Truax Field.
“It’s with great joy and obligation that we accept this challenge today of becoming the second Air National Guard fighter wing with the F-35,” said Col. Bart Van Roo, the 115th FW commander. “As we take on this new challenge, with so much national and international importance, we look forward to working with you all to continue to maximize what we bring to our communities for decades to come.”
The 158th Fighter Wing in Vermont was the first Air National Guard unit to receive the F-35, in 2019. The Wisconsin Guard’s effort to land the jet took 10 years.
“Our team effort was built on three pillars — the stellar and well-deserved reputation of the 115th Fighter Wing with years of great leadership and vision got us in the game, the airspace and ranges of Volk Field, Hardwood and Ft. McCoy rounded out our unique training complex, and the 128th Air Refueling Wing ensured ready support for extended training and real-world missions,” said Brig. Gen. David May, the assistant adjutant general for the Wisconsin Air National Guard. “The three Wisconsin air bases were a potent combination of talent, will and desire for us to be selected for conversion.”
With the arrival of the first F-35 at Truax Field, the Wisconsin Air National Guard is now part of a vast fleet of F-35s across the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and many partners and allies.
“We find ourselves now in an age where national borders are no longer recognized and the international order as we know it is being tested,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, the adjutant general of Wisconsin. “As we engage in this new era of great power competition, the ability of this fighter wing to deliver reliable F-35 combat airpower is vital to the national defense of our nation.”