Woman with Crestview ties helps U.S. Air Force control the skies

LaToya Cleveland crestview

Air Force Tech. Sgt. LaToya Cleveland works with the newest, most advanced aircraft in the Department of Defense arsenal, the F-35 Lightning II, Joint Strike Fighter, at Eglin Air Force Base. She ensures F-35 students and instructors meet flying prerequisites prior to flights.

MARV LYNCHARD, Department of Defense / Special to the News Bulletin
Published: Monday, August 12, 2013 at 13:40 PM.

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE — In warfare, they say, those who control the skies have the best chance of winning battles on the ground. If that’s the case, Air Force Tech. Sgt. LaToya Cleveland — whose husband, Larry, is the son of Patricia Rentz of Crestview — is ahead of the game.

Cleveland is working with the newest, most advanced aircraft in the Department of Defense arsenal, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, at Eglin Air Force Base. She uses it for the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing here.

The F-35, which has unprecedented avionics advances and a high level of combat survivability, is difficult to be detected by enemy fighters. It is fast, has increased maneuverability and pilots have a 360-degree view inside their helmets with digital views beyond peripheral.

"The F-35 is significantly smaller and faster. It's a fifth-generation aircraft, so it's more modern, and its capabilities are unmatched," Cleveland said.

The F-35, which is in testing, is being used for training.

Clevelandjoined the Air Force in 1999 and has been stationed in South Carolina, North Dakota, Florida and Germany. She has been deployed to Kuwait and Guam.

She said her next goal is to become a first sergeant, advising the commander on the enlisted force and managing assigned enlisted personnel.

Shannon Collins is a reporter with the Joint Hometown News Service, Fort Meade, Md.

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