Most Viewed Stories
McCain: Yuma, state perfect for aircraft
Senator speaks at dedication event
Arizona Sen. John McCain called Tuesday's re-designation ceremony for the first operational squadron of F-35B at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma the beginning of Joint Strike Fighters flying over the skies of Arizona for the next 50 years.
“This is another 50 years for the City of Yuma, and the state of Arizona to do it's part to help ensure this great nation remains strong and secure,” McCain said during an official re-designation ceremony for VMFA-121. “With the arrival today of what may be the greatest combat aircraft in the history of the world to its home in Yuma, I'm confident that this great city, and our beloved state of Arizona will now contribute another important chapter to the defense of the country we all cherish so dearly.”
In what was history in the making, the first F-35B Lightning II landed at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma on Friday afternoon. A second F-35B arrived during the ceremony and did a fly-by of the hangar where it was being held.
McCain said the Joint Strike Fighter program is a culmination of a great deal of hard work and dedication by many people in communities throughout Arizona, which has always placed a great importance in supporting and preserving the military installations located within the state.
He also said that it was no coincidence that the Marine Corps chose Yuma and the Air Force chose Luke Air Force base for the stationing of these initial F-35s.
”The flying weather is perfect. The Barry M. Goldwater range is the premier air-to-ground training range in the country, and the communities across our state are unparalleled in their dedication and support of our military,” McCain said.
Gov. Jan Brewer also attended the ceremony, calling Tuesday a very special day for the Marine Corps and the military, which will all fly different versions of the F-35 Lightning II.
“Arizona is proud to host the Marine Corps' very first operational F-35 squadron, and we will do whatever we can to protect its mission,” Brewer said. “MCAS Yuma will continue to train the best fighter pilots in the world, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to take part in this re-dedication ceremony and excited for the future of Yuma.”
McCain also said that he continues to be hopeful that the Air Force will chose Davis–Monthan in Tucson as the location for all the international training for the F-35. The supersonic stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets are intended to replace at least seven types of military aircraft flown by the United States and its allies.
Despite long-standing controversy over the program — including sniping over its price tag, timeline and ongoing technological development, McCain said the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which has undergone several major restructuring efforts, is now moving in the right direction.
While the F-35 is still in flight testing, McCain said there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure the aircraft is fully operational and the program can be called a success. He added the best way for that to happen is for the military and its industry partners to share in the ‘fighting spirit' and work collaboratively.
McCain said nowhere is this ‘fighting spirit' more present than at MCAS Yuma, which recently lost two of it's own Marines, Lt. Col. Christopher “Otis” K. Raible and Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell, who died in a Sept. 14 attack on Camp Bastion in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
“Today we remember them and their extraordinary courage and extend our sincerest condolences and thanks of a grateful nation, We honor them, not simply for their heroism in facing death, but for their life of service,” McCain said. “We honor them because of how they lived. Devoted every day to serving a just cause that is greater than any of us. A special cause of our country, the higher calling of the Marine Corps and the moral responsibility that rests with each of us to leave the world a better place than we found it.”
McCain said that because of the way Raible and Atwell lived their lives, it is our solemn duty as Arizonans to be forever inspired by the modest efforts they made on behalf of our country. “Our country and our great state of Arizona is better because these two brave men, who we honor in life and death, and to whom we can offer no higher praise then to say they were Americans, they were Arizonans, they were our sons, they were Marines,” McCain said. “They did their duty.”