Ninjas get new commander

  • Published
  • By Maj. Elizabeth Magnusson
  • 944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
During an early morning ceremony September 8, Lt. Col. Eric “Bodhi” Puels took command of the 944th Operations Group Detachment 2 from Lt. Col. Sean “Hooligan” Holahan here.

The formal ceremony, attended by family, friends, and personnel from both the 56th and 944th Fighter Wings, was presided over by Col. Korey Amundson, 944 OG commander.

“Hooligan, you’ve been here since the beginning and should be proud of what you and the Ninjas have built,” Amundson told Holahan. “You have a lot of sweat equity in this program, and you’ve led with class and created a culture where people want to come to work each and every day. I congratulate you and we thank you…mission accomplished.”

Amundson went on to address Puels during his comments, “Bodhi’s finger prints are literally on almost every F-35 Ops structure here at Luke…the 61st, 62nd, 63rd, Academic Training Center, and of course the Foreign Military Sales. When it came time to select the next Ninja 1, it was a no-brainer. Bodhi, you are qualified, motivated, and you are ready. Thank you for all your hard work standing up this program and congratulations on your command….I’m excited to see where you take the Ninjas in the coming years.”

The 944 OG Det 2, known as the Ninjas, is a team of Reserve and active duty Airmen, civilians, and contractors responsible for executing the F-35 FMS program, training and advising fighter pilots from Israel, Japan and South Korea. Additionally, the Ninjas provide highly experienced F-35 instructors, aligned with the 56 FW in supporting the F-35 partner nation training.

“Ninja’s, you played a lead role in standing up every single F-35 squadron on this base. You built the world’s first F-35 Foreign Military Sales squadron from the group up” said Holahan. “You created the Ninja brand and developed our culture. You’ve authored tactics manuals and syllabi for the U.S., Australia, Norway, Italy, Israel, Japan and South Korea, and set the foundation for how we train the next generations of warriors.”

Holahan conclude his speech by saying, “I am left with no doubt that the victories you have claimed at the tactical level will continue to have strategic impact in both the Middle East and the Pacific Rim for years to come. I can’t think of a better warrior to lead the Ninjas to future victories than Lt. Col. Puels.”

Puels received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy and went on to earn his wings and was selected to become an F-16 pilot. He later graduated from the first F-35 instructor pilot course at Luke. Over the years his career has included multiple assignments as an F-16 and F-35 instructor pilot both on active duty and as a Reservist. Puels has over 200 combat hours in Iraq supporting Operations Southern Watch and Iraqi Freedom.

“The Ninjas consist of all three flavors of full and part-time Reservists, both officer and enlisted, active duty officers and enlisted, civilians, and contractors. We train Israel, Japan, and Korea, often simultaneously,” said Puels. “Our maintenance is provided by a record breaking team of Lockheed Martin maintainers and we fly and train in Japanese and soon Korean jets on U.S. soil. That, folks is the definition of Total Force Integration and while it may have been difficult to follow, what you need to know is that it works.”

“The full gravity of command over what we do here and the true quality of the Ninja team is not lost on me,” Puels continued. “The truth of it is, many of the International pilots we train here, will go on to lead their country’s Air Force and military. The partnership and relationships we build here are crucial to the future defense of the free world and I for one am humbled to be a part of it.”