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News | Aug. 13, 2007

Reserve ushers new era as Raptors arrive

By Master Sgt. Chance C. Babin Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs

As six F-22 Raptors flew in over the clear summer sky of Elmendorf AFB Aug.8 from Langley Air Force Base, Va., it not only represented a new day for Pacific Air Forces and Elmendorf AFB, but a new era for the Air Force Reserve Command.

The 477th Fighter Group will be associating with the 3rd Wing becoming the first AFRC reservists to maintain and fly the F-22 Raptor. The 477th Fighter Group will be comprised of the 302nd Fighter Squadron, the 477th Maintenance Squadron and the 477th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

"Today this is the beginning of a new chapter in the Air Force Reserve, flying the newest fighter in the Air Force and teaming up with the first Reserve F-22 permanent basing in PACAF. This is a chance for the Reserve to be relevant in the fighter world for the next 50 years," said Col. Eric Overturf, 477th FG commander.

To be involved with the F-22 so early is something Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley, chief of the Air Force Reserve, said he would have never imagined three years ago.

"It is brand new and exciting to, at this point, have the Reserve invited to participate in this mission with Pacific Air Forces. It's gratifying," said General Bradley. "I think the reason Gen. (Paul V.) Hester (PACAF commander) and Gen. (T. Michael) Moseley (Air Force Chief of Staff) have asked us to be a part of this is because our 76,000 Citizen Airmen have done so well the last few years in supporting our Air Force.

"They know that we have been an important part of the Air Force; we're deploying; we're doing our Air Expeditionary Force business right along side them and we've done it well," he said.

The active-duty men and women of the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf are gaining a longtime partner with the new Reserve associate unit.

"Airmen here at Elmendorf are no strangers to new aircraft or missions," said Col. Thomas Tinsley, 3rd Wing commander. "The major difference here in this time, is we are teamed with our unrivaled wingmen, the Reserve. These professional Airmen will be integrated in every part of the F-22 operations and bring total force integration to a new level."

Colonel Overturf has the honor of being the 477th Fighter Group's first commander.

"The proud Airmen of the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group team are one Air Force sharing the same fight," Colonel Overturf said. "That means that when you walk the flight line at Elmendorf, you will not differentiate reservists and regular Air Force Airmen, you will witness a total force team, seamlessly integrated and working together to build the best air supremacy wing in the world."

The 477th Fighter Group will officially stand up Oct. 1 and will eventually build to about 425 part-time and full-time Reservists. Currently, the unit has an initial cadre of about 25 people and will add about 100 people over the next few fiscal years to build up to 425 by 2010.

General Bradley has said that getting on board with the F-22 mission was one of his top priorities as chief of the AFRC.

"This is the biggest deal in my term as chief of the Air Force Reserve," General Bradley said. "We do a lot of important things for our Air Force. I hate to pick and choose, everything we do is important, every Airman we have is important, every mission we do is important, but this is really going to be a high visibility mission."

The 477th Fighter Group and the 302nd Fighter Squadron bring the fabled heritage of the Tuskegee Airmen to join the decorated history of the 3rd Wing.

"I feel blessed to have the history of the Tuskegee Airmen to start my unit with because the Tuskegee Airmen were a group of people that all they wanted to do was serve their country," Colonel Overturf said. "We're going to try to take that same spirit within the 477th FG that we'll carry over from what the Tuskegee Airmen did back in World War II."