New Aviano commander a 31st Fighter Wing veteran
Stars and Stripes June 2, 2007
European edition, Saturday, June 2, 2007
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Brig. Gen. Craig Franklin is a newcomer to northern Italy, but he was a member of the 31st Fighter Wing long before the hundreds of airmen who stood in formation Friday to welcome their new commander.
Franklin, who took command from Brig. Gen. Robert Yates, was stationed at Homestead Air Force Base, Fla., from 1986 to 1989 while it was home to the 31st. Hurricane Andrew severely damaged the base in 1992, leading to its closure and the transfer of the wing to Aviano in 1994.
The wing has had 10 commanders in Aviano since then, and it was time for No. 9 to say goodbye on Friday.
“Welcome to the best job, I believe, in the world,” Yates told Franklin during a ceremony attended by Italian and American dignitaries. “Certainly in the Air Force.”
Yates, headed for a job as deputy U.S. representative to NATO in Belgium, spent much of his speech talking about the wing’s accomplishments during his two years in Aviano. It passed three major inspections with high marks and was heavily involved in four Air and Space Expeditionary Force rotations to Iraq. In one of them, pilots and aircraft from the wing set a record at Balad Air Base by flying 667 sorties in less than a month.
“It’s been a quick and fast ride and there was never a dull moment,” Yates said.
He said he’s also proud of the wing’s battle against drinking and driving, citing a decline in incidents of driving under the influence from 22 at the same point last year to eight this year.
“But today’s not about looking back,” he said. “It’s about looking forward.”
Franklin will be the one leading the Air Force’s only permanent fighter wing south of the Alps.
Lt. Gen. Robert Bishop, commander of the 3rd Air Force, pointed out in his remarks how much the base had changed during Yates’ two years. But with the massive Aviano 2000 construction project starting to wind down, the changes have started to shift to the personnel side. Aviano is seeing a reduction from its force of about 4,500 active-duty personnel as the Air Force looks to trim its ranks around the globe to free up money for new aircraft.
Franklin has experience with one of the Air Force’s newest fighters: the F/A-22. He served as F-22 project officer at Langley Air Force Base, Va., from 1993 to 1995. He has had two previous overseas tours: as a pilot at Hahn Air Base in Germany from 1983 to 1986 and as deputy operations group commander at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea from 1999 to 2000.
Franklin is a command pilot with more than 3,100 hours, including time on four F-16 models and the B-1 and B-52 bombers. His last assignment was executive assistant to the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.