EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
The F-35 Lightning II program graduated the 9,000th F-35 maintainer, Mar. 13, 2020 here.
Airman First Class Benjamin Missel, 9000th maintenance training graduate, completed course studies at the F-35 Academic Training Center, Eglin AFB, Florida.
The F-35 ATC is the enterprise’s sole source of maintenance training, developing maintainers for three U.S. branches of service and 10 participating countries.
Since formal training began just eight years ago, the program’s graduation rate has seen a steady increase.
“At the beginning of the program in fiscal year 2011, we graduated 89 maintenance students,” said Lt. Col. William Andreotta, F-35 ATC director. “Last fiscal year, we graduated 1,915 students including 250 international students.”
Due to the F-35’s complex computing system, F-35 maintainers must maintain a high level of technical expertise for their jobs.
The training rotates between classroom and full scale training devices to create an in-depth understanding of the aircraft.
With more of the fifth gen fighters being added to the fleet, Andreotta says an expansion to the schoolhouse is under construction to increase student throughput and better meet operational needs.
“The F-35 is going to be the backbone of our nation’s fighter fleet for generations to come,” said Andreotta. “With increasing our training space, we are ensuring our nation has the amazing maintainers we rely on to keep our F-35s combat capable and ready to answer our nation’s call if needed.”
Missel was one of 1,906 maintainers projected to graduate the program in FY 2020.
Following graduation, Missel reported to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. for follow-on training. He will serve as an Air Force Reservist at Hill AFB, Utah.