EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Eielson Air Force Base reactivated the 356th Fighter Squadron and named a new commander on Oct. 10, in preparation for the arrival of the U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs to interior Alaska.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. James Christensen will lead the 356th FS, which is the first of two combat fighter squadrons coming to the base.
“The 356th FS is reactivating to bring F-35As out to the Pacific Theater,” said Lt. Col. James Christensen, 356th FS commander. “Looking back at the squadron history, the 356th Tactical Fighter Squadron was previously stationed in the Pacific for both the Vietnam conflict, and to defend Korea and Japan out of Kunsan Air Base and Misawa Air Base, respectively. We are excited to bring the squadron back to the INDOPACOM theater.”
The 356th FS’s mindset will be locked in to preparing for the arrival and eventual employment of the F-35 weapons system.
“We are strategically placed here in Alaska to prepare and project Fifth-generation stealth fighter capabilities, working with our program partners and allies in the Pacific and to be ready, if called, to deploy around the world,” said Christensen.
The reactivation represents a milestone toward the 354th Fighter Wing’s air assets returning to operational combat status.
“The 354th FW has done an amazing job preparing for the arrival of the F-35,” he said. “The transition to a combat force-provider mindset is what we will all get to learn together.”
U.S. Air Force Col. David Skalicky, 354th Operations Group commander and the reactivation ceremony’s presiding officer, is highly confident in Christensen’s ability to lead the wing’s newest squadron.
“Lt. Col. Christensen is absolutely the right leader, in the right place, at the right time to bring the combat Air Force mission back on line at Eielson Air Force Base,” said Skalicky. “Standing up the wing’s combat mission [with] the most advanced fighter aircraft the world has ever seen, preparing the whole 354th Ops, maintenance, logistics, mission support, and medical enterprise to fight anywhere on the globe, and being ready to project that combat power from one of the most strategic locations on the planet is an honor, a burden and a once in a lifetime opportunity all rolled into one.”
Since the record of decision in 2016, the installation’s operational and support elements have been preparing for the arrival of the F-35 in the spring of 2020.
“Lt. Col. Christensen will need to draw on the expertise and pioneering efforts of Airmen across the 354th FW to do it,” said Skalicky. “And there’s no one I trust more with that responsibility.”