Col. Mark Fluker to step down as F-35 maintenance chief

nwfdn f-35 pic

2012 was the year the F-35 finally took off at Eglin Air Force Base.

FILE PHOTO | Northwest Florida Daily News
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 11:50 AM.

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE — When Col. Mark Fluker arrived in 2009 to help set up maintenance operations for the military’s newest and most expensive fighter jet, he had a staff of only nine people.

The entire 33rd Fighter Wing, in fact, had only 60 people, mostly high-level command staff.

They were tasked with building the F-35 program from the ground up. When Fluker arrived, the now state-of-the-art airplane hangars weren’t just empty, they didn’t exist. A lone I-beam had been put in place.

Today, the wing has grown to 1,500 people. As commander of maintenance operations, Fluker oversees about 390 maintainers who work on a fleet of 22 F-35s, the largest in the world.

On Friday, Fluker, 51, will step down from his post, his first move toward retirement this summer after 30 years in the air force.

Navy Capt. Lance Massey, the maintenance group’s deputy commander, will take over.

Fluker’s years at the forefront of putting the new F-35 into action have been the highlight of his career, he said.

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