NAVAL AIR STATION PENSACOLA, Fla. — Nestled under a canopy of Blue Angel aircraft located in the back of the National Naval Aviation Museum on Naval Air Station Pensacola, a ceremony steeped in military tradition unfolded.

The 479th Flying Training Group witnessed history as the Air Force’s newest unit, the 479th Student Squadron, was activated.

Col. John R. Edwards, commander of the 479th FTG, presided over the activation ceremony and bestowed command upon its leader, Lt. Col. Christopher “Orbit” Plourde. 

Plourde was born and raised in Auburn and is a 1993 graduate of Edward Little High School. 

Before the activation the 479th Operations Support Squadron was responsible for all undergraduate combat systems officer students, but with the creation of the student squadron, Plourde will command the nearly 300 students that graduate from the 479th FTG annually.

“The addition of the 479th Student Squadron to our group will align us with the standard model for undergraduate flying training in the Air Force. It will provide the best organizational structure to lead, train and develop students into officers and aviators,” said Edwards.

Edwards addressed the new commander by saying, “You are entrusted with the future of our Air Force from the first day they arrive to begin flight training until the day they graduate with their wings and move on to an operational squadron. I know you and your squadron will excel.”

Following opening remarks, Plourde received the 479th Student Squadron guidon from the group’s first sergeant, Master Sgt. Amber Wortman.

Prior to assuming command, Plourde served as the director of operations for the 455th Flying Training Squadron and is excited for the opportunity to command the next generation of combat systems officers.

“We are expecting the very best from you. This training is difficult for a reason. You are the next generation of combat systems officers and I and your country will depend on you in times of crisis,” Plourde told his new students.

The activation of a new squadron rarely occurs in the Air Force, and congressional approval is required to active a new squadron.

Plourde emphasized the uniqueness of the event by stating, “Our slate is clean and our history begins here today. We start a new chapter in forging the future of America’s air power and we will be ensuring America’s continued air supremacy both here and abroad.”

Plourde will have the unique opportunity to begin writing his new units’ history.


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