Feature | Aug. 25, 2006

"Ready Elmendorf": Raptor's next challenge takes F-22 north

By Capt. Elizabeth Kreft 1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Picture the late 1980's at the United States Air Force Academy. A young cadet sees concept pictures of the next super-stealthy American fighter jet. Foaming at the mouth ensues. 

Now fast forward 20 years. That same kid is not only flying said jet, but he was just named commander of the next F-22A Raptor squadron. 

Meet Lt. Col. Michael Shower, F-22 pilot; proving daily that flying dreams still come true.
Right place, right time - twice 

"I remember being at the Academy and thinking to myself 'That would be awesome," said Lt. Col. Shower, recently named commander of the "Ready Elmendorf" detachment. "Then I forgot all about it until they asked for applications to the program." 

Colonel Shower was chosen to be one of the first operational Raptor pilots; he began flying the jet in early 2003. 

"When I got that call, it was a dream come true," Colonel Shower said of his F-22 assignment notification. "I knew it would be a great opportunity." 

Until recently, he thought life couldn't get any better. 

"I've been asked to stand up the next F-22 squadron," said Colonel Shower. "It's at a different base - the first Raptor squadron outside the continental United States." 

Recognizing the unique opportunity afforded him, Colonel Shower simply credited luck and good timing for his chance at command. 

"I wasn't even sure I'd have the chance to be a squadron commander with the number of talented guys they asked to fly the F-22," Colonel Shower said. "I just feel very lucky and I feel like the timing fell into place for me." 

Others disagreed of course, particularly those who had a hand in picking him for the job.
"Colonel Shower is the exact right guy to work this interaction," said Brig. Gen. Hawk Carlisle, 3rd Wing commander. "His experience with both Elmendorf and Langley makes him the perfect guy for this job." 

Big plans, big audience 

"Ready Elmendorf" is the transition plan designed to bring F-22A Raptor operations to Alaska, by way of Langley. 

Preparing Elmendorf Air Force Base for its first Raptors will send more than the standard set of squadron-commander challenges to Colonel Shower's door. Yet, he remains calm and confident, trusting that his fellow Airmen will also rise to the occasion.
"We will certainly count on the experience of these maintainers who have been in and around the program for multiple years," he said. "I know that leveraging the talent and experience that are already present at Langley will make this Alaska beddown process a success." 

Recently thousands of Alaskans caught a sneak peek at the F-22's capabilities at the Elmendorf Air Show, thanks to Colonel Shower, who also happens to be a current Raptor demonstration pilot. 

According to the local papers, more than 65,000 jaws dropped when the Raptor took center-stage. 

Knowing the local neighbors are impressed is one thing, but Colonel Shower knows an audience of millions will watch closely as the Ready Elmendorf plan unfolds. 

"It is very important that we do this right," Colonel Shower said. "The American people deserve nothing less."