As soon as next year Luke Air Force Base will welcome the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and a new mission.
Wednesday, the Luke family welcomed a new commander.
Brig. Gen. Michael D. Rothstein, most recently the commander of the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base in Japan, assumed command of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke from Brig. Gen. Jerry D. Harris Jr.
“This changing of the guard is a tremendously significant event,” said General Edward A. Rice Jr., the Air Force’s commander of air education and training.
Rice, who selected Rothstein as Luke’s new commander and chose him to command his previous post in Japan, as well, congratulated Harris on a job well done and said he expects great things from Rothstein.
“(Rothstein) is not here to fill anyone else’s shoes,” Rice said. “He’s here to make his own footprint. He comes with a wealth of experience in command, and I am fully confident he will make my judgment look good again here.”
Before Rothstein took command, Harris shared his parting thoughts with the airmen, local leaders, friends and family in attendance.
“To the community leaders here today, you have made the 56th Fighter Wing the envy of many,” he said. “And your willingness to be our neighbors and our friends has made a big impact on our lives.”
To the men and women of Luke Air Force Base, Harris’ message was simple and direct.
“You make me proud to be standing here today,” he said.
To Rothstein, Harris offered some advice.
“Enjoy the community,” he said. “Take it from me, the two years go by fast.”
After officially assuming command to rousing applause, Rothstein could say only, “Wow.” He thanked his family for their support in moving halfway across the world and said he looks forward to addressing the challenges facing Luke Air Force Base, including the arrival of the F-35 and the transition to a new mission. Rothstein said he believes Luke Air Force Base is ready to meet those challenges.
“Everything I’ve seen in my first few days has reinforced the excellent reputation you have,” he said.
By JEFF DEMPSEY, DAILY NEWS-SUN