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Green Mountain Boys Reach F-35 Milestone at Northern Lightning

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A crew chief assigned to the 158th Maintenance Group, Vermont Air National Guard, greets Lt. Col. John "Rocky" MacCrae as he exits a F-35A Lightning II at Northern Lightning, a training exercise held annually at Volk Field, Wisc., Aug. 13, 2020. MacRae, assigned to the 134th Fighter Squadron, Vermont Air National Guard, was piloting this Tail 5279, which achieved the thousandth sortie milestone for the Green Mountain Boys. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Ms. Julie M. Shea)

Vermont Air National Guard --

VOLK FIELD, WIS. - On Thursday, August 13, 2020, the Green Mountain Boys surpassed their latest F-35A Lightning II milestone: 1,000 sorties. While participating in Northern Lightning, an exercise held annually at Volk Field, Lt. Col. John “Rocky” MacRae, assigned to the 134th Fighter Squadron, Vermont Air National Guard, piloted Tail 5279 during a training mission, which achieved the milestone sortie.

“We just flew the thousandth F-35 sortie for the Vermont Air National Guard. It’s a big deal and I’m proud to be a part of the Green Mountain Boys. I’m very fortunate to be here,” said Lt. Col. John “Rocky” MacRae, whose jet was launched by dedicated crew chief, Staff Sgt. Nick Eddy of the 158th Maintenance Group, Vermont Air National Guard.

“One thing I want to highlight is that this is a phenomenal thing for maintenance. Just getting these jets out, how fast we’re able to get the sortie count up and how well they’ve done. I can’t think of hardly any sorties at all that we have lost to maintenance, so that’s a big deal,” said MacRae.

While MacRae looks forward to hitting his 1,000 hours in the F-35 in the next year, more than 200 Green Mountain Boys continue their participation in the Northern Lightning exercise, returning to Vermont at the end of August.