As the F-35 continues to develop, a general reflects on Hill AFB

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Lt. Gen. Lee K. Levy II visited the Standard-Examiner to meet Monday with the newspaper’s editorial board.

Levy commands the Air Force Sustainment Center, Air Force Materiel Command, which is headquartered at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

The center includes three air logistics complexes, one of which is Hill Air Force Base.

Levy leads 43,000 airmen, who play a role in virtually every Air Force initiative.

“The AFSC has $16 billion in execution authority and $26 billion in assets providing logistics operations, supply chain management, supply chain operations, depot maintenance and modifications, as well as sustainment for the nuclear enterprise, joint and interagency operations and foreign military sales partners,” according to Levy’s biography on the AFSC website.

Levy described himself in simpler terms.

“I’m your three-star,” he said, emphasizing the connection between Hill and its surrounding communities.

Here are four key takeaways from Levy’s discussion with the editorial board:

The F-35, based at Hill, is becoming the weapon the Air Force intended.

Every new aircraft experiences problems in development, Levy said. “We didn’t show sufficient patience with this platform,” Levy said.

Levy described the high-tech fighter as a game-changer, capable of linking intelligence and weapons in orbit, in the air and on the battlefield.

“Frankly, I hope it scares the daylights out of adversaries,” Levy said. “I hope we never have to use it. The best wars are the ones you never have to fight.”

Utah can’t turn out enough software and computer engineers to meet the growing need at Hill.

Levy acknowledges the Air Force is competing for talent against private sector giants like Amazon and Google, which pay significantly more. He also concedes the military’s four-month hiring process, coupled with a balky security clearance mechanism, hurts his ability to recruit.

But he said the Air Force offers something Amazon and Google can’t — the chance to do meaningful work in defense of the country.

Also, Levy said, a pilot program should make hiring easier. All Utah needs to do is begin turning out more STEM graduates.

“They call this part of Utah the Silicon Slopes. Yes — more, please,” Levy said.

Hill is built nearly to capacity. Only about 12 percent of the complex remains undeveloped, Levy said, which could force critical decisions in the future.

One issue Levy views as crucial is the addition of a second taxiway. Hill operates a single runway, and before long, it’s going to require maintenance.

“We need redundancy,” Levy said.

Utah and the communities surrounding Hill are vital to its success.

“It’s not like this everywhere,” Levy said. “You don’t always see this level of support.”

Asked if he had a message he wanted to deliver to the community, Levy didn’t hesitate.

“Thanks,” he said.

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