His educational credentials and military assignments are as extensive as they are diverse. Luke Air Force Base Brig. Gen. Gregory Kreuder, commander of the 56th Fighter Wing holds several master’s degrees, has received seven major awards and decorations, and has served in posts across the globe — from South Korea to Iraq, and nearly everywhere in between. His experience, dedication and commitment help reflect what makes Luke AFB a local economic driver, a national security stronghold and revered fixture of the West Valley — and state.

READ ALSO: Here’s how Luke Air Force Base pumps $2.4B into local economy

In honor and celebration of Luke AFB’s 80th anniversary, Az Business and Brig. Gen. Kreuder discuss what makes the base an asset to the West Valley and Greater Phoenix.

Az Business: What is unique about Luke AFB and its place within the West Valley?

Brig. Gen. Gregory Kreuder: I am grateful the Air Force has given me opportunities to serve throughout the U.S. and in several locations in the Far East, Europe and the Middle East. Wherever they are in the world, our air bases must build and maintain strong, positive relationships with their local communities to ensure our airmen and families are welcome and their mission can continue over the long term.

Luke is right in the middle of a rapidly-expanding area of the West Valley, yet has maintained an incredibly strong relationship with its community. In fact, it’s the best relationship I have seen in my military career. This is primarily due to the positive and proactive engagement of our local elected officials, city staff, civic leaders and others that see the value of Luke Air Force Base and its mission to train the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat-ready airmen.

AB: In addition to a fifth squadron, how will the newly redesigned course for F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chiefs and the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 12, add to the existing role Luke AFB plays in producing combat-ready pilots and crew chiefs?

GK: The 372nd TRS, Det. 12, plays a critical role in producing combat-ready crew chiefs at Luke AFB.

In July 2020, the Air Force introduced a newly redesigned course for F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chiefs going through technical training called Right Time Training (RTT). After completing technical training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, F-16 crew chiefs will now proceed directly to their first duty station to attend RTT with the 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 12, which saves the Air Force money by cutting travel to additional duty stations.

The six-week F-16 Right Time Training course allows airmen to learn basic flightline maintenance operations. The course features intensive instructor-led, hands-on training to familiarize the airmen with location-specific maintenance operations. With a small class size of up to five students, instructors can offer students a more personal experience. Smaller class sizes lead to better, faster and tailored training to the aircraft they are working on.

AB: How is Luke AFB an asset to the local community and the state?

GK: Luke’s total economic impact in the State of Arizona is about $2.4 billion annually. So, we clearly have a positive economic impact. But, I think there’s something else that makes Luke an asset to our surrounding communities and Arizona. Our airmen have all sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States and decided to be a part of something larger than themselves. All the feedback we receive shows our local communities are proud to have Luke airmen and their families living amongst them throughout the West Valley.

Our family members are equally valuable to the community. They not only provide our Airmen the emotional and mental support required to execute the mission, but many also provide financial stability for their family in the form of employment outside the base. I am confident you will find our military spouses and dependents bring the same motivation, determination and skill to their civilian workplace as our airmen do at Luke. This has proven to be an invaluable asset to businesses throughout the West Valley and Arizona as a whole.

AB: Aside from its impressive eight decades of longevity, what makes Luke AFB and its 80th Anniversary significant?

GK: It’s rare to find a long-standing, strong partnership of 80 years nowadays. The importance of our surrounding community is indescribable and immeasurable. The support is not only felt by our Airmen, but is also tangible in every interaction we have with the citizens of the West Valley.

For example, the City of Glendale has shown its commitment to our military members and the Luke AFB mission time and time again. One way we see this partnership directly is the major consideration in ensuring that any economic development surrounding the base is compatible with Luke’s mission. That partnership extends beyond our host city Glendale to surrounding communities and stakeholders, as can be seen in the Luke AFB Targeted Growth Management Plan.

Focusing on a study area based on a 20-minute drive from the base, the Plan looks at four key areas: education, workforce and economic development, housing and transportation and outlines specific steps all stakeholders can take to support Luke and its service members.

Luke is a major economic engine for the entire West Valley, allowing cities to attract businesses that can play a role in the direct supply chain to the base and those that cater to service members and their families. We also attract businesses with our highly-trained workforce, which includes service members who have separated from the military.

Luke is a unique asset for economic development. Recently, the base hosted corporate officials from Red Bull’s home office in Austria. This “meet-the-neighbor” day was a chance for base leadership and corporate partners to learn more about each other and discover possible partnerships in the community.

Luke AFB values the partnership with Glendale and the entire West Valley and the opportunity to grow together.

AB: What gives you pride about being the leader of Luke AFB?

GK: Thanks to the outstanding relationship we enjoy with the West Valley and the State of Arizona, Luke Air Force Base and its mission will continue to grow over the next decade. We are looking for ways to further integrate with our local community and make it even easier for our airmen to get on- and off-base quickly to get to local businesses and enjoy all the benefits of living in the West Valley.

Regarding our mission, we are innovating at all levels at Luke and on the Barry M. Goldwater Military Training Range in Southern Arizona, as we find better ways to train the next generation of fighter pilots and ensure our airmen remain combat-ready and can defend our Nation far into the future. However, although we have the most advanced aircraft and technology in the world right here at Luke, it is our airmen that remain our greatest weapon and asymmetric advantage over any adversary. I am incredibly grateful for the outstanding support Luke and our airmen receive from our local communities and the State of Arizona.