Leader Blues

Monday, April 23, 2007

TOP STORY >>463rd change of command

IN SHORT: As Col. Jeffrey Hoffer assumed control of the 463rd Airlift Group at Little Rock Air Force Base Thursday, he acknowledged the work done by Col. John Gomez and promised continued success.

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

A former Little Rock Air Force Base squadron commander has returned to the fold and taken the reins as commander of the 463rd Airlift Group.

Colonel Jeffrey A. Hoffer assumed command of the 463rd Thursday from Col. John J. Gomez, who has been reassigned to Scott Air Force Base, Ill., during a change-of-command ceremony at the base.

“We are thrilled to be back in Arkansas,” Hoffer said of his two-year assignment. “It was bittersweet when we left the first time; when we found out we were coming here we were jumping up and down ­– it was great,” the command navigator said, adding “we always had a good time in Little Rock, from camping to the people.”

He and his family were stationed at LRAFB from 1998-2002; when he departed, he was commander of the 53rd Airlift Squadron.

He began at Little Rock in the 314th Operations Group and went from the 314th Operations Support Squadron to the 62nd AS and then the 53rd, a squadron he will be tasked with adding to the 463rd before the year is out.

Because of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), more people and aircraft will be coming to the 463rd, including the 53rd, which will go from a training squadron to an operations squadron, and LRAFB’s newly activated 41st AS, the first active-duty C-130J squadron, which came here from Pope AFB, S.C.

“As the group grows under BRAC and further developments, together we will help fight and help America win the global war on terrorism; I will put my heart and soul into leading you through these and future challenges,” Hoffer told his airmen.

He hopes to make the integration seamless and keep it from impacting his 1,300 plus airmen and their families as much as possible.

“Bottom line – take care of the people and the mission will happen, just give them the guidance and resources they need,” Hoffer said.

His objective as the new commander is to make the existing group even better.

“Take where we’re at and make it better for everyone, for families, for crews, for maintainers, and step it up,” Hoffer said.
“Every new commander can only hope to be as lucky as me to inherit a group in such great shape and with such high standards; I owe a great deal of gratitude to Col. John Gomez for the leadership he gave this command and the simply outstanding position he has put me in,” Hoffer said.

The 463rd AG is a unique part of the Air Force. It is the only active-duty unit, and the only unit in the 18th Air Force, flying all three models of the C-130 – the E, H, and J models, an aircraft Hoffer is no stranger to.

“He knows what it is to fly a Herk; he’s been a Herk driver his whole career,” Major Gen. James A. Hawkins, 18th Air Force commander and presiding officer for the change of command ceremony, said of Hoffer.

“He is a combat-exposed leader, serving in Operation Just Cause in Panama and in Oman for Operation Desert Shield/Storm,” Hawkins said. “He has seen and experienced quite a bit of what the 463rd is doing.”

“I think he is well-ready, willing, able and qualified to command the 463rd,” Hawkins said, adding Hoffer is “eminently qualified” to assume command.

The 463rd is comprised of seven diverse squadrons: the 30th AS (a detached unit in Wyoming), the 41st, 50th and 61st Airlift Squadrons, the 463rd Operations Support Squadron, the 463rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and the 463rd Maintenance Ope-rations Squadron.

“Jeff, you are taking command of the finest organization in this or any other Air Force, I’m sure under your leadership they will continue to perform to the highest standards,” Gomez told his successor.

Hoffer has also deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom; he was in Balad in December when he learned of his new assignment at LRAFB and had the opportunity to work with Gomez one-on-one while there via e-mail and later in person, something Hoffer said doesn’t always happen when one takes over command.

“It was wonderful to go to MacDill (AFB in Florida) with him and ask him all the questions I could think of and he tell me all the things he could think of,” Hoffer said. “It wasn’t just ‘where’s this project?’ but the whole thing, the thought process – what he was thinking about when he made those decisions – the most valuable part,” the new group commander said.

Hoffer’s previous assignment was as deputy commander of the 3rd Operations Group at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.

He and his wife Rebecca have two children, Zachary, 10, and Jessica, 8; Jessica was born here during their first LRAFB assignment.

Gomez has been reassigned to Scott AFB as the liaison officer to Air Mobility Command for the Air Force Command and Control Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center.