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412th Test Wing commander bids farewell to Team Edwards

Col. Joe Lanni, then 412th Test Wing commander, smiles as his daughter, Michaela, 2, fixes his hair after being hosed down following his fini flight Jan. 31, 2006. Colonel Lanni passed command of the 412th TW to Col. Arnold Bunch on Feb. 2 in hangar 1600.  (Photo by Chad Bellay)

Col. Joe Lanni, then 412th Test Wing commander, smiles as his daughter, Michaela, 2, fixes his hair after being hosed down following his fini flight Jan. 31, 2006. Colonel Lanni passed command of the 412th TW to Col. Arnold Bunch on Feb. 2 in hangar 1600. (Photo by Chad Bellay)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Col. Joe Lanni passed the 412th Test Wing flag of leadership to Col. Arnold Bunch during a change of command ceremony Thursday in hangar 1600.

Colonel Lanni led the Test Wing since May 28, 2004, and previously served as the F/A-22 Combined Test Force director here from December 2002 to May 2004.

The former commander was involved in a great many endeavors during his stay, but he said one of the best things about his time at Edwards was the people he worked with.

"Seeing people excel has really been neat," he said. "Doing well on major inspections, or when we get a team that wins an Air Force level award or something like that -- seeing everybody's reaction is really gratifying. I enjoyed more of the people aspect of those successes."

Besides the people, there are some projects the colonel said he especially enjoyed working on. The F-22A Raptor is one example he cited.

"Getting the Raptor to initial operational capability -- helping it go basically from a concept to the commander of (Air Combat Command) declaring it ready to go to war -- was hugely rewarding," he said.

Colonel Lanni said he came into the Raptor program as CTF director at a really critical juncture, as the aircraft was having avionics software problems.

"By the time I left that program, we were going sortie after sortie without any avionics problems, so that was a huge turn of events for Team Raptor," he said.

While the entire process of getting the Raptor to IOC was a huge team effort, he said that the test accelerations he was a part of were also great.

"The ability to get something out to the warfighter right away -- like the J-series weapons (Joint Directed Attack Munitions for example) on the F-117, has been truly fulfilling. The highlight is when you see people working long, hard days but just loving their work."

Colonel Lanni is no stranger to the cockpit, as he is a command pilot and parachutist with more than 4,500 hours. He said he was fortunate in that he got to fly with just about every CTF here, but his focus was again on the people.

"The real opportunity is not just the hands-on stick time, but the chance to see how these guys brief, how they debrief, see the interaction with maintenance; you really get a feel for the heartbeat of an organization when you're flying with them," he said. "If you pressed me for my favorite airplane -- they're all unique, they all have their own place -- but due to the amount of effort and soul that I've poured into the project, the Raptor has got to be my favorite."

The commander has been selected for promotion to brigadier general, and is on his way to be the vice commander of the Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. He said he feels his time at Edwards has certainly helped him prepare for the job ahead, as the two jobs he held here gave him the opportunity to grow, to make mistakes, learn from them, and build and improve senior leadership skills.

"I learned a lot about things I had not had much exposure to before," Colonel Lanni said. "Though my jobs here had a high degree of technical content, in a command position like this you have to know a lot bout the unsung parts of the mission, like manpower, personnel and finance and the great folks doing those jobs. You have to keep a handle on awards and decorations as much as the flying schedule. I think the job's taught me to manage better, and also how important it is to take care of your troops."

As the colonel prepared to head east to his new assignment, he shared some thoughts with Team Edwards.

"Edwards has a great reputation, not only in the Air Force and in our country; we're recognized around the world," he said. "But you can't stay there by resting on your laurels. You always have to keep improving, finding new and better ways to do business, retain the best people."

He also commented on Edwards from a more personal perspective: "Our entire family loved being here, I'd come back in a heartbeat," he said. "Thanks for the memories."

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