General visits old stomping ground


12th Air Force Commander, AFSOUTH, Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly, visited here, Feb 22 to 24.

Kelly represents seven wings in the 12th Air Force, including the 366th Fighter Wing. In his position he advocates on behalf of the airmen to senior leadership and congress to ensure the support needed to generate and execute the mission is met.

Although the base has had many distinguished visitors, Kelly is a little different from the rest. He served as the 366th FW vice commander from 2007 to 2008. Having been previously stationed here, gives him a better understanding of the base mission and priorities.

“He has familiarity with the mission and the base – being a F-15E pilot and having been a wing commander three times,” said Colonel Jefferson O’Donnell, 366th  FW commander. “He’ll (have) a previous knowledge and a better understanding.”

Despite having spent time here, many things were new to Kelly, the base has undergone many changes over the last few years.

His visit not only included recognizing top performers and spending time speaking with airmen from different career fields such as 366th Security Forces Squadron and the 726th Air Control Squadron, but also seeing the updates made to the base since his departure almost 10 years ago.

Since his time as vice commander here, the runway has been reconstructed, sunshades have been built for the aircraft, housing has become privatized and family oriented facilities such as the theatre and kids gym have been created.

Regardless of what is and isn’t familiar to him, this visit provided airmen with what can sometimes be a rare opportunity.

“It’s an opportunity for our airmen and our Gunfighters to engage with a senior leader who has a significant amount of experience,” O’Donnell said. “He’s able to bring messages to our airmen directly, and let them know what’s going on in their Air Force and answer any questions they might have about what’s happening in the future.”

In spite of only being here for a day and a half, his visit was insightful and encouraging to airmen and leaders alike.

“General Kelly and his team are engaged despite all that they are responsible for,” O’Donnell said, “So, his visit and his time to talk to our airmen and to pass on messages and take messages back to (the) big Air Force is truly appreciated.”