388th Fighter Wing commander, ‘warrior’ retires after 23 year Air Force career

  • Published
  • By Micah Garbarino
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

After a 23-year career, former 388th Fighter Wing commander, Col. Craig “Hypr” Andrle retired during a ceremony here Friday.

Andrle, who led the wing from 2021-2023, retires as a command pilot with nearly 4,000 flying hours in the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-35A Lightning II. He is one of only a handful of pilots to reach more than 1,000 combat flying hours in the F-16.  

“Flying fighter jets has been awesome. There’s a real freedom in the cockpit.” Andrle said. “The jet becomes an extension of you.”

But, asked about what he’ll miss the most, it isn’t the cockpit (although he will miss that).

“It’s cliché,” he said. “But, it’s true. I'll miss the people most. It’s being around everything that is great about America – people who are the best at what they do and choose to serve something bigger than themselves.”

Andrle joined the Air Force in July 2000. During his career he deployed many times – four combat deployments – twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. Some of his assignments: instructor pilot, flight commander, squadron director of operations, squadron commander, political and military planner for the Middle East on the Joint Staff, and finally as the wing commander here.

“I’m thankful to my parents, to my family, my wife, my kids,” Andrle said during his retirement ceremony. “I’m thankful to God. I see his blessings all around me. A farm kid from Iowa doesn’t make it here alone.”


Looking back on his career, he said there’s one day that stands out as a perfect example of what the Air Force means to him. It took place during the same deployment to Afghanistan where he crossed the 1,000-hour threshold. Andrle was the 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander at Bagram Air Base – captured then in photos sporting the fighter pilot’s signature March mustache (in honor of Robin Olds), sandy flight suit, leather pistol holster, surrounded by Airmen.

“I told my squadron, we were a customer service-oriented organization,” Andrle said. “And that day, our customers were the Army Rangers.”

Ground forces were taking heavy fire from a cluster of buildings, two of the squadron’s F-16s were already on-station, but out of weapons and heading back.

“As I’m running out to my jet to take off, I see the C-130 gunship landing, and that thing is basically a flying-tank killing-machine, and we just ran that thing out of weapons. So, you know it’s a bad day,” he said.

Andrle and his wingmen were taking off, knowing the bombs they carried were desperately needed. Because of the foundational relationships the squadron built with the Army Rangers, both operations centers were working together and able to provide the pilots with targeting info before they left Bagram.

“I went from takeoff, departure to almost immediately dropping a 2,000 lb. bomb on a building,” Andrle said.

He and his wingman stayed on station, dropping 2,000 and 500 lb. munitions until they were down to one bomb on his wingman’s F-16.

“We start heading for the tanker and I’m like, ‘What are we going to do?’ The gunship is not back yet, we’re down to one bomb and they still need us to destroy buildings,” Andrle said. “So, I call back to Bagram and asked my director of operations if we still have a spare aircraft and we did. ‘I think I’m going to come home and get it, but I need bombs.’ So, the maintainers started working on that. I dropped back from the tanker and flew as fast as I could back to Bagram. I landed, hopped out of the jet, ran to the new jet, got new targeting cards. I told my crew chief, Dan, ‘I’m a little keyed up here, I need you to help me not miss anything.’ I think I took off 39 minutes after landing.”

Back over the target, Andrle dropped a 2,000 lb. bomb, a 500 pound bomb, and he and his wingman circled back for a coordinated attack with their final munitions. By that time, the C-130 gunship and other two F-16s were back on station.

“What we did that day means a lot to me because it’s a great example of what the Air Force is and does. It was everybody focused on the mission. It was ops. It was the maintainers. It was my crew chief. It was the whole squadron finding a way,” Andrle said. “We really built a culture where we were confident that we could do anything we needed to.”


As the 388th Fighter Wing commander, Andrle said his primary focus was to prepare the wing to meet the emerging demands placed upon the Air Force – simply put, to win a modern war.

“For the past 20 years we’ve been flying over ‘bad guy land’ in a support role for the Army and the Marines, not really getting shot at,” Andrle said. “But now, we’re not in a support role, we’re the tip of the spear. We’re posturing ourselves for the next fight. It will be the Air Force, and the F-35, who will be the first ones in.”

That shift meant establishing a mindset in the 388th FW where every Airmen understood the need to be more agile, more efficient, more lethal, and survivable.

“It’s been a great job because as commander, you can set the culture and tone for the wing,” Andrle said. “I did my best to give my commanders the latitude to go out and take risks, experiment, and try new things. I let them know I had their back. They really pushed the F-35 mission and program forward.”

That freedom to carry out clear goals and objectives, along with the “top cover” Andrle provided was appreciated.  

“Hypr tells Airmen to go out and make it happen, but he also leads by example. Practically every Airmen you talk to will tell you he’s the best commander they’ve ever had,” said Col. James Buessing, 388th Fighter Wing vice commander. “He’s a warrior, but he also cares more about Airmen and their families than anyone I’ve ever met. The Air Force is really going to miss him.”