LOVE AT LUKE: 2 squadron commanders share their story of love

If ranked by fighter aircraft, Luke Air Force Base would rank as the seventh largest air force in the entire world. The base, which was built in the 1940s, recently received its first F-35 stealth fighters.

Despite the entry of F-35s, F-16s still make up a majority of the seven fighter squadrons at Luke, and most of those squadrons are commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel.

Two of those Lieutenant Colonels, Matt and Katie Gaetke, have a personally connected with each other. Lt. Col. Matt Gaetke was deployed four times overseas, twice to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq. Lt. Col Katie Gaetke, meanwhile, was deployed twice - once to Afghanistan and once to Iraq.

Before F-16 pilots are deployed overseas, they learn to fly the jet at Luke. Nowadays, Katie is the squadron commander of the 309th Fighter Squadron, known as the Wild Ducks. Matt, meanwhile, is the squadron commander of the 310th Fighter Squadron, or the Top Hats.

Both have a unique call sign. Katie's is Taboo.

"Taboo stands for ''Taxi Anyway. Bearings only optional'," said Katie, referring to an incident where her F-16 landing gear lost a few bearings, while trying to take off.

"I shut down flying operations for a good day and a half," said Katie.

"Singlehandedly," added Matt. His call sign, meanwhile, is Radar.

"I was named after Radar O'Riley of MASH fame," said Matt.

Matt and Katie have the same last name, and for a good reason. The two ROTC cadets married just after graduation. As often happens to military families, the Gaetkes were often on the move.

"I deployed in January 2003, and was gone until that summer," said Matt. He spent much of his first year as a married man at Baghdad Airport, which saw some heavy fighting early in the 2003 Iraqi invasion.

Both Matt and Katie later entered pilot school, and fast forward a couple of years, both trained at Luke.

"Radar was actually in the class that followed mine, so all the instructors had a good time with that one," said Katie.

"It's good for the ego to follow your wife in F-16 school," said Matt.

Now, both of the Gaetkes are proud parents of two girls. Megan, born in April 2014, was born while both were deployed to ground school. Anna was born three months ago, at a time when both were deployed to Luke as Squadron Commanders.

"I didn't realize until I was nine weeks that I was pregnant," said Katie. "So, she's had some F-16 time already."

Both Matt and Katie agree on many things, with the prominent exception of one thing: who has the best squadron. Perhaps understandably, both said their squadron is the better one.

Both Matt and Katie thanked their superiors for doing their best to keep them in the same country, most of the time, during their air force careers. As for the two, a likely move may be a staff job at the Pentagon.


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