2022 in Review

  • Published
  • By Bradley J. Clark
  • 908th Airlift Wing

The 908th Airlift Wing had a unique year in 2022 at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

The month of January was spent recovering from the holidays and setting the foundations for the wing to have a successful 2022.

During February, the wing celebrated its outstanding Airmen across the unit with the annual awards celebration announcing the best of the best across multiple categories throughout the wing.

VIDEO | 05:09 | 2021 Outstanding Airman of the Year Awards

March saw some of the wing’s first major steps to its transition to the MH-139A Grey Wolf Helicopter Formal Training Unit, as Lt. Col. Jeffrey E. Randall, then 908th Operations Support Squadron director of operations, graduated from the TH-1H Rotary-Wing Fundamentals course at Fort Rucker, Ala.

“It was an honor to be the first member of the 908th to complete the initial training,” Randall said.  “They have a very good training program at Ft. Rucker… I think everyone of our members will come out of the course fully qualified.”

The month of April was an emotional one, as the wing closed the book on its legacy of nearly 50 years of tactical airlift as it executed its final flying mission with its last four remaining C-130 Hercules aircraft, a four-ship formation, on April 2, 2022.

VIDEO | 02:09 | 908th AW's Final C-130 Hercules flight, 4-Ship Formation Flight farewell

The first five of the nine aircraft assigned to the 908th departed for new assignments shortly after returning from a deployment at the end of 2021 and the remaining four were reassigned April 8.

The final flight also marked the first time the 908th had flown in a four-ship formation since the weather evacuation at the beginning of 2020.

“This is the culmination of 50 years of a tactical airlift legacy at the 908th,” said 908th Airlift Wing Commander, Col. Craig Drescher. “This is a very special day for the wing. It’s truly an honor to be here at the close of this chapter, the end of this magnificent legacy.”

Once the 908th divested its final C-130, the wing’s Program Integration Office took center stage as the wing turned it’s focus to transitioning to the MH-139A Grey Wolf.

VIDEO | 02:06 | Introducing the 908th Airlift Wing’s Program Integration Office

Mr. Anthony "Todd" Taylor, a former Air Force helicopter pilot, serves as the director of the PIO team.

"The PIO has been in existence for over a year," said Taylor. "We are responsible for working with other leaders to ensure the 908 AW safely and efficiently converts from a tactical C-130 mission to the Air Force's Formal Training Unit for the MH-139A helicopter."

April saw another milestone in the wing’s conversion from fixed-wing to rotary-wing with eight enlisted members graduating the Basic Special Missions Aviator Course April 27. This was the first time that the BSMA course was taught by a mobile training team.

"This is the first step for the enlisted aviators that will remain with the 908 AW to become rotary-wing aviators,” explained Senior Master Sgt. Adam Childers, a former flight engineer in the class and a member of the wing’s Program Integration Office, who helped set up the mobile training course. “We will officially be in formal transition out of C-130 enlisted crew positions and into the MH-139 enlisted crew position of Special Missions Aviator.”

May turned up the tempo on the wing as it was busy month starting with President Joe Biden visiting Maxwell Air Force Base May 3, where he was able to recognize then Staff Sgt. Janie Murray, a flight engineer with the 357th Airlift Squadron and the 908th Airlift Wing Development and Training Flight Chief.

During the May Unit Training Assembly, the wing hosted the 22nd Air Force Command Team of 22nd Air Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Bret Larson, and 22nd Air Force Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Chin Cox as they observed the wing’s progress in its transition from a C-130 unit to the FTU for the MH-139A Grey Wolf, and to see how they and Air Force Reserve Command could help the wing accomplish the transition.

The wing also welcomed a new 908th Logistics Readiness Squadron Commander, Maj. Kristy Houska, to the team during an assumption of command ceremony on the UTA.

June started a summer full of training for wing members.

Members of the 908th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron conducted water survival training on June 4 at the base pool, while at the same time members of the 908th Security Forces Squadron were conducting use of force training using virtual reality at Gunter Annex.

VIDEO | 00:28 | 908th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron conducts water survival training

On June 27, 2022, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall signed a memorandum for record approving Maxwell AFB as the location for the MH-139A Grey Wolf Helicopter Formal Training Unit.

July welcomed four new commanders to the wing with ceremonies during the UTA. Lt. Col. Stuart Martin assumed command of the 908th Maintenance Group, Maj. Manuel de Diego assumed command of the 908th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Lt. Col. Randall Gibbs assumed command of the 908th Civil Engineer Squadron, and Maj. Scott Graves assumed command of the 908th Security Forces Squadron.

Also during the UTA, the 908th Maintenance Group held classes on basic helicopter rotary systems, to prepare maintainers for the wing’s transition to the MH-139A Grey Wolf Helicopter FTU.

Immediately following the July UTA, Drescher called on 35 enlisted and officer senior leaders from every squadron and group to join him and the other two thirds of his command team consisting of Wing Vice Commander, Col. Casey Burril, and 908 AW Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Tracy Cornett, for a wing strategic alignment conference at Air University’s Fairchild Library on Maxwell AFB to set the wing’s overall reason for existing into words.

After more than two weeks of deliberation, the wing has announced its new mission, vision and priorities. The 908th Airlift Wing’s new mission statement is to “Develop and Deliver Multi-Capable Airmen."

The 908 AW’s new vision statement is to be "The Premier Wing that Inspires Transformational Servant Leaders and Exports Excellence." The wing’s new priorities are: Develop Airmen; Accelerate and Sustain Readiness; Communication; and Prepare for MH-139 Beddown.

One of the last major events for the month took place July 28, when the wing commander sat down for a one-on-one interview detailing the State of the 908th Airlift Wing that lasted more than an hour.

VIDEO | 30:01 | State of the 908th: "Back to Basics" with Col. Craig Drescher

One of the key concepts echoed throughout that interview was the idea of getting back to basics - dress and appearance, customs and courtesies and military bearing. Look for the 908th Airlift Wing Public Affairs team to feature these items and others that fit the concept of getting “back to basics” in the coming months.

In August Air Force Reserve Command’s only wing in the state saw its Commander and Command Chief spend the first three days of the month at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia where other leaders throughout AFRC gathered to see Maj. Gen. John Healy promote to Lt. Gen., then for the AFRC change of command ceremony, presided over by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., where Healy took command from outgoing AFRC commander Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee. Following the change of command ceremony, Scobee had his retirement ceremony after 36 years of service.

August 4, 2022, saw firefighters from the 908th Civil Engineer Squadron head to Fort Benning, Georgia where they experienced a series of firsts for the section; first-time conducting joint interoperability training with U.S. Army firefighters and the first-time conducting training on a helicopter, helping the 908th firefighters lean forward in preparation the 908th’s remission to the MH-139A Grey Wolf Helicopter FTU. Then on August 5, 2022, the same firefighters trained at Maxwell AFB on a building/structure trainer as part of their annual requirements to be ready for anything when the alarm sounds.

VIDEO | 01:51 | Joint interoperability: fire training at Fort Benning and Maxwell Air Force Base help 908th firefighters accelerate change for MH-139A Grey Wolf mission

Saturday, August 6, 2022, the unit training assembly opened with the premiere of the “State of the 908th: ‘Back to Basics’ with Col. Craig Drescher,” a 30-minute sit down formal interview with the 908 AW commander and 908 AW public affairs specialist Senior Airman Austin Jackson. The two discussed the wing's new Mission Statement, Vision Statement, and Priorities. They also talked about how Drescher wants the wing to take advantage of this transitionary period to get "back to the basics" by focusing on improving fitness standards, medical readiness, enlisted and officer performance reports, and dress and appearance.

Later that same day, and continuing throughout the UTA, the 908th Command Team consisting of: Drescher; Vice Commander, Col. Casey Burril; and Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Tracy Cornett, conducted an “MVP tour,” where they visited units across the wing to discuss the new Mission Statement, Vision Statement and Wing Priorities, while also holding question and answer sessions with wing members.

That afternoon, the wing welcomed new 908th Operations Group Commander, Col. Shane Devlin during an assumption of command ceremony. Devlin joined the wing from Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, where he served as the director of inspections for the 403rd Wing.

Closing out Saturday of the UTA was an event that began back in July, 2022, and for the day, started earlier than any other part of the wing. Defenders from the 908th Security Forces Squadron spent the day at Fort Rucker, Alabama, qualifying on their “heavy weapons,” the M203 grenade launcher, M240B machine gun, and M249 light machine gun.

VIDEO | 01:51 | 908 SFS aims for success

Beginning the third week of the month, the 908th welcomed approximately 20 members home after more than three months in Europe supporting U.S. European Command and U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa operations.

On Tuesday, August 16, 2022, the 25th Aerial Port Squadron received a high-line dock from the 910th Airlift Wing at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, for training purposes.

The Chief of Air Force Reserve announced Friday, August 19, 2022, that Chief Master Sgt. Tracy Cornett, Command Chief Master Sgt. of the 908th Airlift Wing was selected to become the new Command Chief Master Sgt. of the 916th Air Refueling Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Cornett had been with the 908th since September 2019.

September started strong as the wing had a Unit Effectiveness Inspection performed by the Air Force Reserve Command’s Headquarters Inspector General Inspection Team from Sept. 8, 2022, to Sept. 13, 2022, at Maxwell AFB.

The purpose of a UEI is to measure a unit’s effectiveness and readiness on a scale of four grades ranging from ineffective to highly effective.

The wing’s senior leaders were informed during the UEI out-brief that the wing had earned a grade of effective according to Wing Commander, Col. Craig Drescher.

“The (IGI) team validated that we are doing outstanding work,” said Drescher. “It was very gratifying to see the very large number of superior performers recognized across the wing.”

On Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, the 908th had its first wing wide Commanders Call in nearly three years.

The Wing Command Team of Drescher and Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Tracey Cornett, took the opportunity to recognize some Airmen for their outstanding work during the past two years, then publicly acknowledging the first and second quarter awards winners. Next up was a reminder to members that the unit has a new Mission Statement, Vision Statement and new Wing Priorities.

Near the end of the call, Drescher thanked Cornett for a job well done during his three years with the unit and allowed others to give some remarks regarding the out-going Command Chief. Once Cornett gave his final comments, he was given a standing ovation from the wing.

Immediately following the Commanders Call, the command team held an update brief for the wing’s transition from a C-130 Hercules unit to MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter formal training unit, followed by a question-and-answer session.

Also, during the UTA, the wing saw a budding partnership continue to grow as the 908th Development and Training Flight once again teamed up with Military Training Instructors from the U.S. Air Force’s Officer Training School to help prepare new recruits for Basic Military Training.

VIDEO | 01:52 | Development Now, Success Tomorrow

A key part of developing these new Airmen is familiarizing them with the stressful environment of BMT. Coming face to face with a Military Training Instructor for the first time can be a harrowing experience. That’s where Master Sgt. Ashley Lowrey, an MTI with the United States Air Force Officer Training School, lends her expertise.

“We’re leading them into service by teaching them military bearing, dress and appearance, all the standards,” said Lowrey. “It’s setting that foundation for the rest of their career, and that’s why we do this.”

Lowrey and other MTIs will periodically visit the D&TF during UTA weekends before members ship to BMT. During the August UTA Lowrey introduced herself to the trainees in true MTI fashion, wasting no time in addressing discrepancies in dress and appearance, hair and shaving standards and basic customs and courtesies. She also spent time teaching drill movements and proper marching technique. Paying close attention to detail and making even the slightest corrections, Lowery made sure the trainees were in sync and looking sharp.

Following the UEI out-brief on Sept. 13, 2022, Cornett signed out of the 908th Airlift Wing for the last time, and the following day he started his new position as the Command Chief for the 916th Air Refueling Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Cornett served three years with the 908th having joined the unit in September 2019.

Closing out the month of September, wing leadership made the decision to reschedule the October UTA in anticipation of potential damaging effects as a result of Hurricane Ian.

“The health and well-being of the wing members and their families is always our top priority,” explained Drescher. “Therefore, we determined that we didn’t need to assume risk by having UTA considering the large storm that is bearing down on Florida and Georgia.”

After rescheduling the October UTA to start the fiscal year, the wing eased into the holiday season with some strengthening of local partnerships.

Wing members participated in a community relations event, the annual Air and Space Forces Association golf tournament at Arrowhead Country Club in Montgomery on October 5.

“It was great day for our Reserve Citizen Airmen to interact with community members in a fun environment,” said 908th Airlift Wing Spokesperson Maj. John T. Stamm.

Another huge event was the three-year anniversary of the wing’s 26th commander, Drescher, taking command of the unit.

The month of October was also the anniversary of the 908th Tactical Airlift Group converting to the C-130E Hercules in 1983.

The wing had to adjust for November 2022, after having rescheduled the October UTA to November and December.

The wing commander had a video message for members prior to the three-day Unit Training Assembly, asking then to focus on key items such as influenza vaccinations, that are vital to members medical readiness.

To meet the commander’s focus, the 908th Aeromedical Staging Squadron and the 908th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron teamed up for a mass influenza vaccination event Saturday and Sunday of the UTA.

Friday and Saturday of the UTA, the wing was visited by an MH-139A Grey Wolf Helicopter and two UH-1N Hueys, mainly for the members of the 908th Operations Group and the 908th Maintenance Group to see firsthand the legacy they are inheriting from the Huey mission, and a glimpse of the future they will lead in the Grey Wolf mission.

VIDEO | 00:45 | 908th embraces future, legacy of helicopter mission

On Sunday, November 6, 2022, Wing Commander, Col. Craig Drescher was honored to be the guest speaker at the 11th annual Pike Road Veterans Appreciation Ceremony at Veterans Park, Pike Road, Alabama.

Later in the month the wing remembered the two-year anniversary of arguably the most significant announcement ever made regarding the unit’s new mission. On November 20, 2020, the Secretary of the Air Force announced that Maxwell AFB was the preferred location to host the MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter formal training unit.

Closing out the year, the wing started December with another three-day UTA.

On Friday Dec. 2, members from the 25th Aerial Port Squadron started training on a high-line dock, which they received from 22nd Air Force sister unit, the 76th Aerial Port Squadron, with the 910th Airlift Wing at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio.

VIDEO | 01:33 | 908th AW sustains readiness… with a little help from our friends

Saturday Dec. 3, started off with the 908th Force Support Squadron exercising a fun way to boost morale and maintain physical readiness by engaging in a "Chase the Grinch" 5k run/walk in which nearly 90 members participated.

Nearing the end of the day, wing members gathered for the 908th Operations Support Squadron Change of Command ceremony where Lt. Col. Terence O’Grady relinquished command, after serving in the role for nearly 38 months, to Lt. Col. Jeffrey Randall, who was previously the 908 OSS director of operations.

The wing closed out the year with some exciting news. Four majors were promoted to Lt. Col. On Wednesday Dec. 28, 2022. The four new Lt. Cols. are Arthur Caffey, 908th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron director of operations; Bitrus Cobongs, 908th Airlift Wing head chaplain; Scott Graves, 908th Security Forces Squadron commander; and Rebecca McKenzie, 908th Airlift Wing director of staff.

When looking back on 2022, 908th Airlift Wing Commander, Col. Craig Drescher had this to say to the wing: “You had another tremendous year in 2022! Your spirit to volunteer and your boldness to accept difficult challenges is inspiring. I want to say thank you to each and every one of you for all that you do. It is truly an honor to serve you.”