One to Watch: David A. Hlatky

One to Watch: David A. HlatkyBy Wendy O. Dixon

“This is a privilege of a lifetime,” says U.S. Air Force Col. David Hlatky, 43, of his assignment as commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base.

The first of its kind in the Department of Defense, The 33rd Fighter Wing is responsible for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter pilot and maintenance student training for the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force and, in the future, at least eight coalition partners.

Hlatky, a former academic All-American offensive lineman for the U. S. Air Force Academy’s football team, earned his master’s degree in aerospace engineering at Princeton University and studied as a National Security Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.

His previous assignment was as a division chief on the multi-national Force-Iraq staff in the Strategic Effects Directorate at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The command pilot has logged more than 2,300 hours in the F-16, including 114 missions and 418 hours in combat.

“We have built some incredible training facilities,” he says of the training site, which will train 2,200 students a year and have about 900 on site at any given time. “We actually look like a college campus.

“For the next five or six years, Eglin is going to be the centerpiece of the F-35 world. Many more nations will want to buy this airplane when they visit Northwest Florida and see what this jet can do.”

Hlatky and his wife, Dawn, had initially planned to retire at Hilton Head, S.C., but after being stationed in Northwest Florida in 2001 and again now, their plans changed.

“We love this community, and the quality of life is as good as it gets,” he says. “Being in the military, we’ve seen a lot of places around the world. But this is the place that has struck the chord in our heart strings.”