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‘Always had a desire to serve’: Air Force veteran assumes command of 388th Fighter Wing at Hill

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jul 26, 2023
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Col. Michael Gette, 388th Fighter Wing commander, speaks during a change of command ceremony at Hill Air Force Base on June 22, 2023.
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Members of the 388th Fighter Wing provide the first salute to Col. Michael Gette, who took command of the 388th Fighter Wing, on June 22, 2023.
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Col. Craig Andrle, center, former 388th Fighter Wing commander, and Col. Michael Gette, right, 388th Fighter Wing commander, render a salute during a change of command ceremony at Hill Air Force Base on June 22, 2023.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- Michael Gette knew early on he wanted to serve his country. Then, at the age of 7, he attended an air show and was awed by an F-15 demonstration.

"For me, for some reason, I always had a desire to serve the country," he said. "When I saw the air show and F-15 demo, I knew right away that's what I wanted to do. If I could serve my country and fly, I thought, why not put those two things together."

And that's exactly what he did. Today, Gette is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force and recently took command of the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, one of the busiest fighter wings in the Air Force. The wing's mission is to rapidly employ F-35A combat power worldwide at a moment's notice.

A 24-year Air Force veteran, Gette is a command pilot with more than 2,500 flying hours in the F-15 and F-35A, including more than 250 combat hours. He graduated from the University of Colorado, Air Command and Staff College, and National Defense University. He also served as the chief of NORAD's Future Operations Division at Peterson AFB, Colorado. He served as vice commander of the 388th Fighter Wing for two years, and took over after Col. Craig Andrle retired from active duty after a 23-year career.

"It's an honor being the 388th commander and leading this group of airmen and knowing how important our mission is," Gette said. "I've been doing this for a while and I've seen a lot of good relationships between the base and the community. In fact, I haven't seen any stronger relationships than I've seen here in Utah. Our community and our leaders are very supportive and very involved."

Gette is responsible for the readiness, training, morale and welfare of more than 2,000 personnel who maintain and operate 78 F-35A aircraft across 10 squadrons. He also provides operational oversight and direction for nearly 450 reserve maintainers and operators in the 419th Fighter Wing in addition to being responsible for the Utah Test and Training Range, a 3.2 million-acre swath of Utah's West Desert that provides operational test and evaluation of weapons requiring a large safety footprint.

"I know Col. Gette is prepared to take over this wing and continue to lead the airmen who employ America's most advanced fighter aircraft," said Maj. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski, 15th Air Force commander, who presided over a recent change of command ceremony.

Gette also served combat time in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's exciting to be out there doing the job you train for and it becomes real when you deploy," he said. "Our mission over there was really supporting the guys on the ground."

He said he almost guarantees there will be another call to deter or defeat an adversary.

"That aircraft (the F-35A) is the baddest war machine that's ever been built, and we've got 78 of them," he said. "You've proven time and again you're the best in the world at employing them, and we've got to continue to become more lethal, because our adversaries are increasing capabilities faster than any time in history."

Gette was born in Wisconsin and raised in Denver. When he isn't working, which is a rare event, he loves to be outdoors, skiing, golfing and mountain biking, but his main passion is his job.

"It's rewarding and challenging and keeps you very busy, but that's what we signed up for," he said. "It's a really good career and it's a job where what you do really matters. We're defending the United States and I hope more and more people can see the benefits and will want to join. It's definitely worth it."

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