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Graffs bid farewell to Tyndall, Air Force

Colonel David E. Graff, 325th Fighter Wing commander, completed his final flight July 17 in a T-38 Talon. This flight was Graff's last as he relinquishes command of the 325th FW July 24 and retires July 25. (U.S. Air Force photo by Technical. Sgt. Javier Cruz)

Colonel David E. Graff, 325th Fighter Wing commander, completed his final flight July 17 in a T-38 Talon. This flight was Graff's last as he relinquishes command of the 325th FW July 24 and retires July 25. (U.S. Air Force photo by Technical. Sgt. Javier Cruz)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Within the first 24 hours of taking command of the 325th Fighter Wing, Col. David E. Graff dealt with a real-world emergency, the loss of an F-22 Raptor. Though just being in command, he and Team Tyndall pushed through and overcame the crisis establishing a culture of perseverance, innovation and servant leadership, which carried through this entire command.
Prior to the change of command, Graff was the vice wing commander for the 325th FW and strived to support Team Tyndall the best he could. Tyndall's ability to manage the crisis is a prime example that leadership set Team Tyndall up for success of the mission and the safety of their Airmen.

This command has been unbelievable, explained Graff.

"I've been honored to work alongside the greatest Airmen in the United States Air Force," added Graff. "Our community is the strongest support of any base that I've witnessed in 21 years, and the 325th FW has accomplished things that far exceeded possible expectations. I've been able to witness a complete culture change in our maintenance organization and dynamic overhaul of how we produce F-22 pilots."

In one year, the 325th FW has seen its student training timeline go from being 32 days behind in March 2013 to seven days ahead in March 2014 and 13 days ahead in April 2014. A consensus among wing leadership is that a major factor of the recent turnaround is due to having more reliable F-22s. Due to maintenance improvements and aircraft upgrades made in the last 12 to 18 months, the wing achieved the highest mission capable rates in its history.

"Additionally, I witnessed the initial operations capability of the 95th combat F-22 squadron, the activation of the 325th Logistics Readiness Squadron and saw the standup of the 44th Fighter Group, our Reserve partners," added Graff. "I've also witnessed never seen before partnerships with our community, setting a new standard for military-civilian relationships within in Florida and the Air Force. What a privilege! I can't wait to see where Tyndall Airmen take this base and its amazing mission."

Now, after more than 21 years of service and three tours at Tyndall, Graff retires from the Air Force July 25.

Tyndall has special memories for the Graff family, as, "Three of our four children were born here at Tyndall," said Graff. "How much more special can a place be?"

The Graffs were first stationed at Tyndall when he was a student in the F-15 Eagle program in 1995. He returned to the wing in 1998 as an instructor pilot with the 2nd Fighter Squadron and later served as a weapons officer with the 95th Fighter Squadron.

"We have put down some deep roots in Panama City, Bay County and Northwest Florida," Graff said. "We couldn't think of a better place to permanently call home. Our daughter is attending the University of Alabama in the fall and we have the opportunity to continue the fantastic relationships we have developed here over the years."

The Graffs will pass on their roles and duties to Col. Derek France and his wife, Amanda.

"Colonel France, Amanda and their great kids have been friends with Jamee and I since our first F-15 assignment together at the 54th FS, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, back in the mid to late 90s. While leaving this command and the unbelievable people I've had the honor of working with, I couldn't have picked a better leader and family to follow in our footsteps. The Checkertails are in great hands."

The Graffs offer this departing message and a thank you to all those they have lived and worked among.

"The mission of Air Dominance is non-negotiable," said Graff. "We must always prevail with overwhelming dominance. We do this provide our national leaders with strategic options. To most effectively accomplish this, we need to remember and act as a family, always treating each other with the respect and honor only reserved with those who are the closest to us. The Checkertails are setting new standards for the Air Force. Jamee and I salute you, your families and your ability to TRAIN and PROJECT UNRIVALED COMBAT POWER."