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Warm Weather and a Warmer Welcome

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Posted: Saturday, December 8, 2018 8:15 am

Colonel David Piffarerio takes command of the 482d Fighter Wing at Homestead Air Reserve Base

When the cold waves come and temperatures briefly drop into the 60s and lower, Colonel David Piffarerio and his wife Jennifer, PsyD, are likely to smile instead of shiver.

With previous assignments in Alaska, Colorado, and Nevada, Florida is definitely new territory for the couple.

Piffarerio took command of the 482d Fighter Wing at Homestead Air Reserve Base (HARB) September 9, 2018, and the family participated in their first November Veterans Day Ceremony and Parade. Both, however, are very familiar with what it means to be a military family.

The 482d FW commander’s grandfather served in the Army and his father was career Air Force. Her father was career Army and as often happens, he chose to remain in the place of his last assignment which was Colorado. While Piffarerio put skis on at age four and loved the sport, Jennifer never quite took to it. She did enjoy being in Colorado, especially since she was able to finally stay in the same place for junior and senior high school.

For Piffarerio, attending and becoming an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy was a dream realized. With the 1990s cut-back in the number of pilot slots available, he’d selected biology/pre-med for an undergraduate degree. If jets were not to be in his future, medical school was a good option. While he did achieve the pilot goal, meeting Jennifer at a mutual friend’s home soon after was not exactly planned. With pilot school ahead, they made the decision to see how a long-distance relationship would be. Jennifer knew from her own experience about family separations and in the twenty years they’ve now been married, she’s coped with his absences as he’s flown combat missions in multiple overseas deployments.

“I grew up an Army brat and can remember my dad going ‘down range’ for long periods of time. It was my norm. I had an understanding of what it meant to be a military family when I became an Air Force wife. It’s never easy but I was ‘fortunate’ that when Dave was deployed it was before we had Bryce. It helped that I had a job and friends that supported me through it. Now that we have Bryce I can’t imagine having to explain to him every night why daddy had to go to work far away for a very long time. It’s difficult either way; with or without kids. The person you love is far away and you don’t know what it’s like there. You imagine the worse, you hear about the horrible things happening and there is nothing you can do. So you press on and do the best you can. You maintain an inner strength because you don’t want them to worry about you. You hope with everything in you that no one in uniform comes knocking on your door. For base support, we do have the Key Spouses program and Family Readiness and there are other organizations that step up to help out as well during deployments.”

In addition to balancing family and work, her academic endeavors were impressive. “I didn’t have a specific idea of continuing on through to obtain a doctorate in Psychology,” she explained. “I chipped away at the undergraduate courses with us moving around and we were in Alaska long enough for me to get my Masters. They added a doctoral program and I was glad to be able to complete it during that time.”

Among their moves where Piffarerio held different operational and command positions, he too was awarded a distinction he had not originally expected. Highly proficient in F-15s, he was brought early into the F-22 Raptor program. In his capacity of Operational Test Director, 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, he had extended time with the advanced jet and became the first pilot in the Air Force to log 1,000 hours in the aircraft. In actuality, this probably also made him the first pilot in the world to do so. “Each aircraft brings inherent strengths to the mission,” he pointed out about the 482d’s F-16s that streak through the skies over Homestead.

He anticipates the mission pace of the Fighter Wing will be busy as ever as he commands the 2,500 personnel who are a combination active duty Air Force association personnel, traditional reservists, Air Reserve Technicians, and full-time civilians as well as a geographically separated detachment of 35 Airmen at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. A unique aspect of this command position is having varied tenant units that include the Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing, Detachment 1 Alert Force, Headquarters, Special Operations Command, South (SOCSOUTH), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST 91114), the Florida Army National Guard’s 50th Regional Support Group, and members of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Piffarerio will continue to promote HARB as an ideal home for the next round of stationing of the F-35 fighter jet. The effort is strongly supported by the Military Affairs Committee (MAC), the South Dade Chamber of Commerce, and other area business and civic leaders.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the welcoming and open response from the community. The MAC, Chamber, Mayor, members of the City Council, and everyone we’ve met so far,” the couple said. “We are new to Florida and we’ll participate as often as we can in community activities.”

Although five-year old son, Bryce, may have to wait a while for another ski lesson, they have sampled snorkeling and are looking forward to experiencing the many adventures of South Dade.

Their arrival in September did enable them to take part in the popular Wings Over Homestead. “We love to host the Air Show,” Piffarerio said of the tremendous amount of work the show requires. “It gives us a chance to give back to the community, to give a glimpse to everyone of what we do on a daily basis.”

Whether preparing for the likelihood of a 2020 air show or managing the myriad aspects of the 482d FW as well as the installation, Colonel Piffarerio’s closing remarks from the change of command reflect his leadership philosophy. “Today, I ask of you only one thing - that is simply to do your best, every day, and I promise to do the same as well.”

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