New vice brings decades of Fighter Wing experience

  • Published
  • By Col. Vince Wilcox
  • 301st Fighter Wing
I'm utterly thrilled to be your vice wing commander! Let me tell you a little of what I've learned during my wonder-filled career with the 301st. 

I left active duty in 1984 and joined the 457th Spads as an F-4 Weapons Systems Officer, the same job I performed while active. As a new reservist I learned that Air Reserve Technicians and civilians are crucial in making the reserve unit program viable. ARTs and civilians enable traditional reservists to laser-focus on honing their warrior skills. 

Additionally, I had the opportunity to be a part of the very special connection between 301st maintenance and operations, the likes of which I had never experienced on active duty. Our outstanding and supremely dedicated maintenance took active-duty trouble-prone hand-me-down F-4s and turned them into reliable fighting machines. Their stellar record continues, as proven by the perfect F-16 deployment to the area of responsibility last month. 

For those not ops or maintenance, who are already fully knowledgeable, I have flown as a WSO with Colonels Bachelor, Williams and Mortensen and can personally attest to their top-flight fighter pilot prowess and leadership. Rest assured, as I do, that they have, and continue to hire and retain only America's best fighter pilots as Spads.
Flying the F-4 was the most fun and exhilarating job I've ever had. It was emotionally trying as the wing transitioned to F-16s and my position evaporated. 

Little did I know what opportunities lay ahead. In retrospect, I was so fortunate to get a position in the civil engineer squadron. This quickly opened my eyes to the support arm of the wing, of which I was previously only vaguely aware. 

I came to realize that support units accomplish amazing things with meager resources. I seized the opportunity to enhance my officership skills - develop, care for and lead the enlisted force. I may be biased, but I can't keep myself from saying that I've never been around a team that worked physically any harder than the civil engineers. 

As I look back, the CE officer position has been the most fulfilling of my Air Force career.
Again, but this time due to downsizing, my position went away in CE. Fortuitously, the Mission Support Group deputy retired and I was asked to take the position. I had less hesitancy about change this time, and jumped at the opportunity. While I was CE operations officer, I further developed my skills as second-in-command under superlative mentors. I learned about holding commanders accountable for accomplishing their unit's mission and caring for their people while aiding them with problems outside their span of control. Furthermore, I developed an appreciation of each support unit's distinctive ethos, including the medical squadrons'. 

We are all Airman first, but each unit has its own tailored culture and that draws and retains its members. And support unit members are both incredibly talented and widely diverse. 

Once again, I was pushed out as MSG deputy, this time due to the great fortune of being promoted to colonel. Serendipitously, a retirement opened a position for me at 10th Air Force, as the Inspector General complaints resolution. 

As IG, I learned to exercise an extra measure of compassion while remaining objective and impartial. Also, I gained a better understanding of 10th's mission, facilitating the success of subordinate wings in succeeding in mission accomplishment and excelling at inspections. 

When I saw the 301st IG position advertised two years ago, I immediately applied, to get back home to the 301st. Using a gearbox metaphor, as the 301st IG working with my fellow wing staffers, I soon recognized that each and every one of the wing staff functions is either a vital cog or lubricant that's indispensable to keeping this fantastic wing running continuously at full throttle. 

I'm blessed, honored, and humbled to be 301st Vice Commander. Thank you for your service and choice to serve with the 301st. Keep up the great work. Stay proud. 

In closing, please keep the currently deployed 301st warriors, along with all our fellow comrades in arms in harm's way, in your thoughts and prayers.
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