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Reserve wing closes chapter in history

Master Sgt. Bob Rydzynski marshals an F-16 Fighting Falcon for its historic last flight Feb. 12 from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The last three F-16s assigned to the 944th Fighter Wing departed Luke as part of Base Realignment and Closure Commission actions. Sergeant Rydzynski is a crew chief at the 944th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Susan Stout)

Master Sgt. Bob Rydzynski marshals an F-16 Fighting Falcon for its historic last flight Feb. 12 from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The last three F-16s assigned to the 944th Fighter Wing departed Luke as part of Base Realignment and Closure Commission actions. Sergeant Rydzynski is a crew chief at the 944th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Susan Stout)

Lt. Col. Donald Lindberg shakes the hand of his crew chief, Tech. Sgt. Dan Dennison, Feb. 12 before taking his final flight in a 944th Fighter Wing F-16 Fighting Falcon. The last three F-16s assigned to the wing departed Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., as part of Base Realignment and Closure Commission actions. Colonel Lindberg is the 302nd Fighter Squadron commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Susan Stout)

Lt. Col. Donald Lindberg shakes the hand of his crew chief, Tech. Sgt. Dan Dennison, Feb. 12 before taking his final flight in a 944th Fighter Wing F-16 Fighting Falcon. The last three F-16s assigned to the wing departed Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., as part of Base Realignment and Closure Commission actions. Colonel Lindberg is the 302nd Fighter Squadron commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Susan Stout)

The last three 944th Fighter Wing F-16 Fighting Falcons depart Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 12 as part of Base Realignment and Closure Commission actions to consolidate the service's declining fleet into fewer, larger units. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dan Orzel)

The last three 944th Fighter Wing F-16 Fighting Falcons depart Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 12 as part of Base Realignment and Closure Commission actions to consolidate the service's declining fleet into fewer, larger units. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dan Orzel)

Members of the Air Force Reserve Command's 944th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., watch as the 302nd Fighter Squadron's flagship passes for its final flight. The flagship, painted in original Tuskegee Airmen colors, will go on to become an aggressor at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The 944th FW is home to two original Tuskegee Airmen squadrons, the 301st and 302nd Fighter Squadrons. The 944th FW's 17 F-16 Fighting Falcons were reassigned to other units as part of Base Realignment and Closure Commission actions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Susan Stout)

Members of the Air Force Reserve Command's 944th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., watch as the 302nd Fighter Squadron's flagship passes for its final flight. The flagship, painted in original Tuskegee Airmen colors, will go on to become an aggressor at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The 944th FW is home to two original Tuskegee Airmen squadrons, the 301st and 302nd Fighter Squadrons. The 944th FW's 17 F-16 Fighting Falcons were reassigned to other units as part of Base Realignment and Closure Commission actions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Susan Stout)

The last three F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 944th Fighter Wing perform a ceremonial flyover over Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 12 as hundreds of unit members bid farewell. The three F-16s were the last of 17 to depart the base as part of Base Realignment and Closure Commission actions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Susan Stout)

The last three F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 944th Fighter Wing perform a ceremonial flyover over Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 12 as hundreds of unit members bid farewell. The three F-16s were the last of 17 to depart the base as part of Base Realignment and Closure Commission actions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Susan Stout)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Reservists from the 944th Fighter Wing here bid farewell to the last three F-16 Fighting Falcons after almost 20 years. The unit's F-16s are being reassigned to other locations on the recommendations of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

"This is like a family that's moving on," said Lt. Col. Donald Lindberg, the 302nd Fighter Squadron commander. He compared the emotions of the event to sending a child to college.

As part of the farewell, the trio of planes performed a ceremonial flyover for the crowd of 944th Fighter Wing members, past and present, and their families before flying toward Las Vegas.

Two of the F-16s, piloted by Colonel Lindberg and Col. Derek Rydholm, the 944th FW commander, will become part of the aggressor squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

The third jet, flown by Maj. Mike Sharp, the 944th Operations Group deputy commander, will undergo maintenance at Hill AFB, Utah, before being assigned to an Air National Guard unit in Tucson, Ariz.

Master Sgt. Bob Rydzynski, a 944th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, worked on these F-16s since they arrived from the factory in 1987.

"Today is an emotional day," he said. "On one hand I have a great feeling of pride seeing my jet fly, but at the same time, I know it's not coming back."

The 302nd Fighter Squadron, which traces its roots to the Tuskegee Airmen, will be inactivated at Luke AFB but will return to the Air Force Reserve Command when it stands up as an F-22 associate unit at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.

The 944th FW will continue its mission of training F-16 pilots.
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