SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT – Almost a month after the historic arrival of two F-35 fighter jets, the Vermont Air National Guard pilots who flew in that day shared their experience with fellow guard members.
“Today we get to share it with all the airman of the 158th Fighter Wing,” said Lt. Col. Nate Graber, one of the pilots who flew the F-35 from Texas to Burlington International Airport in September. “That first day we flew them in it was very mission-oriented, very mission-focused… ya know let’s get the jets here and get them here safely… and today is about being able to say hooray and do some clapping.”
Graber said it is important to have the jets as threats to the nation are becoming more and more technologically advanced. He says he feels honored to be able to fly the plane and be able to combat those threats.
Col. David Smith, commander of the 158th Fighter Wing, said the day was to acknowledge those involved.
“Today was the day we set aside to bring as many people as we can to thank them and acknowledge their hard work and to celebrate it’s a celebration that we have all shared this common goal to get to this time in history today,” said Col. Smith.
The 158th Fighter Wing in South Burlington is the first National Guard unit to receive the fifth-generation fighter jets. Another 18 are expected to be here by June 2020.