Vermont Guard Personnel Doing F-35 Training in Florida

A crew chief prepares an F-35 for departure.
A crew chief assigned to the 158th Maintenance Group prepares an F-35 for departure to training known as Southern Lightning at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, from the Vermont Air National Guard Base, South Burlington, Vermont, Jan. 23, 2020. More than 100 airmen will fly and maintain F-35 operations at Southern Lightning, utilizing their training and developing their skills while executing flying operations off-station. (Julie M. Shea/U.S. Air National Guard)

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — More than 100 members of the Vermont Air National Guard are in Florida where they are learning more about how to maintain F-35 fighter jets.

The guard says its members left this week for Eglin Air Force Base for a training event known as Southern Lightning.

The guard members, primarily from the Maintenance and Operations Groups, will learn more about flying and maintaining the stealthy F-35 fighters.

“This is the first opportunity to take aircraft, equipment and personnel and practice in a new environment,” said Lt. Col. Ernest Tomasi, 158th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. “We are going to capitalize on our training and lessons learned and continue to improve our processes to be ready with the F-35.”

The Vermont air guard is the first guard unit in the country to receive the F-35. The first two planes arrived in September. Now seven have arrived. The full complement of 20 aircraft are scheduled to be in Vermont by summer.

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