HomeNewsArticle Display

PJ School welcomes Fleener, bids Lopez Farewell

Left to Right: U.S. Air Force Pararescue School Commandant Senior Master Sgt. Michael Rubio gives the unit guidon to officiating officer Battlefield Airmen Training Group Commander Col. John Traxler, during the the 351st Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron change of command ceremony here July, 10. Incoming Commander Lt. Col. Jesse Fleener prepares to receive the guidon as outgoing Commander Lt. Col. Joe Lopez looks on. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jessie Perkins)

Left to Right: U.S. Air Force Pararescue School Commandant Senior Master Sgt. Michael Rubio gives the unit guidon to officiating officer Battlefield Airmen Training Group Commander Col. John Traxler, during the the 351st Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron change of command ceremony here July, 10. Incoming Commander Lt. Col. Jesse Fleener prepares to receive the guidon as outgoing Commander Lt. Col. Joe Lopez looks on. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jessie Perkins)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Lt. Col. Jesse Fleener took the 351st guidon from Lt. Col. Joe “LZ” Lopez in a ceremony here July 10. Col. John Traxler, commander of the Battlefield Airman Training Group at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, officiated.

Fleener comes to Kirtland from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where he served as the Personnel Recovery Functional Area Manager, Headquarters United States Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa. He also holds the distinction of being the only Airmen to ever hold Air Force Specialties in Combat Control, Tactical Air Control Party and Pararescue (as a Combat Rescue Officer).

The new commander lauded his new charges and said he was eager to get started.

“Thank you for making the impossible possible every day. We are looking forward to serving with you,” Fleener said.

Lopez, who arrived at Kirtland in June of 2016 to lead the newly formed 351st, oversaw the molding of 151 Pararescuemen and Combat Rescue Officers during his tenure. He took the 351st, historically known as the U.S. Air Force Pararescue School, from a detachment to a squadron, increasing permanent party personnel 75 percent. The 351st also took part in four real-world local search and rescue missions, in concert with the 58th Special Operations Wing.

“So much has gone on from so many to make the three-five-one such a success since the activation in 2016. I am so proud to be a part of this squadron,” he told his comrades from the podium.

Lopez now departs for JBSA-Randolph to head the burgeoning Special Warfare Division at Headquarters, Air Education and Training Command.