This month, Fighter Country Partnership newsletter features Mr. Blair Bunting, an advertising and editorial photographer in Phoenix specializing in commercial portraits of celebrities and athletes. Mr. Blair Bunting was inducted into the Luke Air Force Base’s Honorary Commanders program a year ago. Since then, he has immersed himself into the 425th Fighter Squadron and has made a positive impact to the base and his adopted squadron family.
Background: Blair Bunting burst onto the commercial advertising scene at age 19 with a very unique style. His photos for the Discovery Channel: MythBusters, Deadliest Catch, Future Weapons, the list of professional athletes and celebrities he’s photographed for major publications continues to grow. His style is edgy, contrasty, specular and is widely recognized for his vibrant and unique imagery and lighting. His advertising clientele includes Pepsi, General Motors, Adidas, Discovery Networks, AT&T, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship series. Additionally, Blair has worked with numerous movie and television personalities, profession athletes, and high profile politicians. His editorial and portraiture work has appeared in countless national and international newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, Time, Business Week, Cosmopolitan, Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine.
When asked what it is like being an Honorary Commander, he explained, “First and foremost, an honor. It is an invitation to a family of men and women that possess character and class that is unrivaled. It is also a responsibility to the Airmen of Luke and a role that I take much pride in.”
Many Honorary Commanders have had no previous experience with the military or know what military life is all about. The program provides a unique insight into the mission and people at Luke.
“I have learned the complexity that the base functions under,” said Mr. Bunting. “The respect and attention that is given to every function that goes into making the F-16’s fly safely, is overwhelming. Every role has a purpose as the leadership has done such an incredible job making the bigger picture visible.”
The Honorary Commanders program provides many opportunities and events for these selected community and business leaders. Mr. Bunting explained that his most memorable so far have been the induction ceremony and the squadron naming ceremony.
“The induction is where the gravity of the situation and our role as Honorary Commanders really struck me perhaps due to the character and accomplishments of all the Honorary’s that I serve alongside or perhaps because I was the youngest one in the room,” he said.
Each squadron at Luke is assigned two Honorary Commanders. Mr. Bunting serves alongside Mr. Garth Stevens, of Snell & Wilmer.
“The naming ceremony with the 425th Fighter Squadron “Black Widows” was very memorable,” Mr. Bunting said. “After that night, I was no longer Blair, but became “Flash” and Garth became “JDAM” and the 425th were not my squad, but my brothers.”
Mr. Bunting explained that one of his favorite experiences was a trip with the 425th FS to the Barry M. Goldwater Range.
“It was an opportunity to meet not only our squad, but also their families, which is a very important aspect of the 425th (a Singapore squadron), he said. “We watched practice bomb drops and strafing passes from our guys and found a greater respect for the skill it takes to be a Viper pilot.”
Lieutenant Colonel Michael “Screamin” Dean, the commander of the 425th Fighter Squadron, explained, “This program allows us to establish personal relationships with folks who have the ability to reach the community in ways we can’t. I’m sure there are very few people in the community who are aware of Singapore’s presence at Luke and even more importantly, why they are here. Both of my assigned Honorary Commanders, Blair “Flash” Bunting and Garth “JDAM” Stevens, know the Widows well and are advocates. They have introduced the Widows to their peers and share the “One Team, One Fight” spirit of the Black Widows with them.”
Colonel Dean went on to say, “I’ve learned not to take my job for granted.” “The ability to serve and do it as a fighter pilot and a commander is a privilege. It’s a calling most civilians don’t understand and never have the opportunity to experience. Seeing their reactions to our accomplishments is refreshing and rewarding in and of itself. Additionally, it’s always good to see appreciation from the folks we are here to protect. Blair and Garth are absolutely appreciative.”
Currently Mr. Bunting is helping the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds with a photo shoot this month to give a high-quality look to their already incredible show. He has also offered to do a photo shoot with the Widows and has been very generous providing support for larger squadron events. He has also offered his participation in many of the athletic events and promotions he photographs.
“Being assigned to the 425th Fighter Squadron is like finding out you’ve won a car, only to learn that the car you have won is a Ferrari,” Mr. Bunting explains. “Being a Black Widow is being a part of their family, their Singaporean culture, and their lives. The 425th is about community and on many occasions I have brought family, friends, and even other Honorary Commanders to our events and all were immediately treated as family.”
“Both Blair and Garth have whole heartedly embraced this program and we are happy to call them Widows,” Colonel Dean said. “The message they spread throughout the community is positive and their passion for the military is rewarding. They missed their calling and would both make great Fighter Pilots!”
Mr. Bunting concludes, “Winning photography awards is great, traveling the world for shoots is fun, but nothing (and I mean NOTHING) brings as much pride to me than to say, “I am a Black Widow—Feared Throughout the Land.”