Robinson takes command of the Ninjas

  • Published
  • By 944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
  • 944th Fighter Wing
As the sun rises over the Saguaros of the Arizona desert, Lt. Col. Eric C. Puels, 944th Operations Group Detachment 2 outgoing commander, passes the torch to Lt. Col. Justin Robinson, 944th OG/Det 2 incoming commander, during a change of command ceremony here, December 7.

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

The 944th 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 Foreign Military Sales 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.

“During his command tour, Lt. Col. “Bodhi” Puels was 100 percent mission focused, all while taking care of his people and ensuring the highest of morale in the Ninjas…a feat not always accomplished by commanders," said Amundson.

Puels commanded the Ninjas from September 2017 to December 2018.

Incoming commander, Robinson, received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2000 and went on to earn his wings at Columbus Air Force Base and was later selected to become an F-16 pilot at Luke Air Force Base in 2001. He later assisted in the F-35 bed down and standing up the 61st Fighter Squadron at Luke in 2014.

"Lt. Col. ‘Tang’ Robinson, you’ve been handed the keys to a well-oiled machine,” said Amundson. “There is no time to rest on laurels; the Ninjas are a growth product in a rapidly changing environment, expect the unexpected and be ready to flex. I have full confidence in your leadership ability.”

Amundson also addressed the audience.

“The future of the 944th OG Det 2 is exciting as we continue to grow our manning, sunset the current FMS mission next year, and assimilate into the partner nation squadrons to continue in our famous Luke AFB Classic Association Total Force Enterprise,” continued Amundson. “If [and] when the FMS is stood back up here at LAFB, we’ll have a built-in seasoned set of experienced Air Force Reserve Command F-35 instructor pilots ready to pick up and run with the mission. This is what the AFRC was built for here in the 944th OG.”

The Ninja’s, have played a key role in standing up every single F-35 squadron on this base. They built the world’s first F-35 FMS squadron from the group up. The Ninjas have authored tactics manuals and syllabi for the U.S., Australia, Norway, Italy, Israel, Japan and South Korea, and set the foundation for how to train the next generations of warriors.

"Lt. Col. Peuls did an amazing job as the commander of Det 2," said Robinson. "I hope to keep Det 2 on the course of success he so brilliantly established."