New SFS commander brings global, real-world experience to 908th

  • Published
  • By Gene H. Hughes
  • 908th Airlift Wing
Since it's founding in 1963, thousands of people have claimed membership in the 908th Airlift Wing. But it's unlikely there's ever been a member with a name more challenging to pronounce than the new 908th Security Forces Squadron commander.

Major Sounthavone Von Thiphavong, also known as "Major T," assumed command during the September UTA, receiving the guidon from 908th Mission Support Group Commander Col. Patricia Brewer.

Originally hailing from Fitchburg, Mass., and currently residing in South Carolina, Thiphavong comes to the 908th from Kunsan Air Base, where he was the security forces deputy commander. He said he looks forward to the opportunity to lead and mentor his fellow security forces defenders and prepare them for any deployments the squadron might get tasked to support.

"My main goal is to ensure all members of the 908th SFS are fully prepared to deploy and provide effective combat forces competent in their abilities to perform their duties," he said. "I believe my experience as an officer on active duty will enhance our training as security forces members, and will ensure we are all prepared to deploy."

He said his motivation in joining the service was to serve and defend the United States of America. His active experience includes tours of duty with security forces units from South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana, to the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and South Korea. H

is duties are just as diverse as his duty stations. Besides being a flight leader and operations officer, he has also worked as an antiterrorism officer, a director of technical support and an Air Force ROTC instructor.

Thiphavong said his favorite deployment was a 2005 tour in Iraq, because "we conducted operations for which we trained. I led off-base combat patrols responsible for securing the airfield against rocket and mortar attacks."

As the leader primarily responsible for the care, training and leading of the 908th Security Forces Squadron, Thiphavong said his main leadership style incorporates input from the unit into any final decision he makes.

"Although my main leadership style is democratic, I believe there are times that I have to be autocratic and make decisions quickly," he said.

As a police officer in military life, it's ironic his civilian profession centers around a product consumed by police officers the world over, in awe-inspiring quantities.

Thiphavong is Production Supervisor for the Starbucks Sandy Run Roasting Plant in Gaston, S.C. His personal goal is to have a successful career as a Starbucks Coffee Company partner and to progress up through the ranks to eventually become plant director.

"My military job benefits my civilian job by providing me the tools and knowledge to lead and manage a team effectively to accomplish our production goals," he said. "In return, my civilian job enhances my interpersonal skills and ability to deal and interact with various personalities within the military."

He said the greatest influence on his life was his father, the source of his determination to succeed.

"I learned from him the importance of hard work," he said. "To succeed you need to be determined and willing to put in the extra work to get what you want out of life."

It might take a little time to pronounce the name easily, but it won't take long for Thiphavong to make an impact on the 908th.