Wednesday Hill Air Force Base held an official rollout ceremony for the Air Force’s first operational F-35 squadron, which will be housed at the northern Utah base.
Senator Orrin Hatch, Utah’s senior senator, whose 10 years of behind-the-scenes work has been credited by military leaders as integral to bringing the weapon system to Hill, spoke at the ceremony.
“As we celebrate the stand-up of the Air Force’s first operational F-35 squadron, we are demonstrating our commitment to a cause of critical importance both to Utahns and all Americans—our national defense,” Hatch said. “We are immensely blessed to live in a nation that protects the rights and liberties we cherish. With the F-35, our liberties are even more secure. This weapon system will be a powerful deterrent to those enemies who would tear down our freedom and destroy our peace.”
Hatch also took the opportunity to commend the members of the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings, charged with operating and maintaining the fighters. “You represent the very best this nation has to offer,” Hatch said. “Your devotion to honor, selflessness, integrity, and courage embodies the very pinnacle of American virtue. Thank you for your example, your commitment, and your sacrifice.”
Hatch outlined the efforts to bring the F-35 to Hill, from meetings with military leaders as early as 2005 to make a strong case for Hill to championing the program in the Senate, to leading efforts to expand the Utah Test and Training Range to accommodate the training needs of the F-35. “I have been honored to support development of the F-35 since the project was announced, and I have fought to bring the Air Force’s first operational squadron to Hill, even at the expense of ‘harassing' three Air Force secretaries. I have worked toward this goal because I believe in the F-35’s mission and Hill’s unique ability to further it, just as I believe in all of the fine men and women who have made this project a reality. May we remain ever vigilant as we work together to improve this weapon system and ensure its sustainment for many years to come.”