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104th Fighter Wing selects 21 Airmen for core cadre training

  • Published
  • By Jerry Hewitt
  • 104th Fighter Wing

BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- Twenty-one Airmen from the 104th Fighter Wing were selected for a two-year core cadre program as part of the Wing’s conversion from the F-15 Eagle to the F-35A Lightning II.

The core cadre program sends Airmen to active duty F-35A bases to train and learn on F-35A aircraft. They then return home station as fully qualified F-35A maintainers ready to assist when the first aircraft arrive.

"Core cadre will lead the integration of the F-35A at the unit,” said Brian Wallace, 104th Maintenance Group unit conversion representative. “They will be an integral part of the training plan for the maintenance group on how to maintain this new aircraft. Members of core cadre will shape the Wing’s procedures and plans for aircraft maintenance and initiate the continuation training for the 131st Fighter Squadron pilots. Their expertise and qualifications will position them as key contributors to the success of the unit's new mission."

The maintenance career fields selected for the core cadre program include flightline avionics, crew chiefs and low observable aircraft structural maintenance. These career fields were selected because they align with the wing’s new F-35A mission.

Staff Sgt. Colby Ballou, 104th Maintenance Group flightline avionics technician, is one of the Airmen selected for the core cadre program and is temporarily relocating to Luke Air Force Base to complete his two-year training.

“Luke Air Force Base is amongst one of the earliest operators of the F-35," said Colby. “I am excited for the opportunity to learn from their amassed wisdom and expertise as a result of their time with the airframe.”

The last F-15C aircraft will retire from the unit in December 2025, and the 104FW is set to receive the first F-35A aircraft in June 2026. The F-35A guarantees the long-term viability of the 104th and continuation of its vital air dominance mission for many years to come.

“Being selected for core cadre is both a privilege and an honor to the utmost degree," said Ballou. "Barnstormers have always been at the tip of the spear in the vast lineage of airframes and corresponding missions we've held. To be able to help define, mold, and develop that legacy as we transition from, historically speaking, the most successful fighter platform to the most advanced fighter platform, will be a challenge I will never forget."