Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

TOP STORY>>New commander arrives at LRAFB

Leader senior staff writer

After nearly two years of activist leadership, Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz Jr., 19th Airlift Wing commander, will relinquish command to Col. Gregory S. Otey.

Otey, the former Air Force Expeditionary Center vice commander at Fort Dix, N.J., takes over in a change-of-command ceremony here today.

Schatz is headed for the Pentagon, where he will be deputy director of joint operations. This is the largest deputy directorate on the staff, with responsibility for nuclear weapons, surveillance, reconnaissance, information operations, cyber warfare and for maintaining command and control of the national military command center.

“I’ve known the man since he raised his hand to become a second lieutenant,” retired Col. William Kehler, head of the LRAFB Community Council, said of Schatz.

“He was a great team leader inside the fence and out,” said Kehler, himself a LRAFB wing commander from 1983 to 1985. “He worked on the joint education center, and it came to pass, helped get new schools for kids on and off the base and has been a strong supporter of independent schools for Jacksonville. He was great to work with.”

Base reorganization occurred on Schatz’s watch and he was a vigilant advocate for getting a new builder/management team to take over the base’s privatized housing for failed developer American Eagle.

Kehler said he looked forward to working with Otey. “He worked for Gen. (Kip) Self in New Jersey.” He said he had heard good things about Otey.

Brig. Gen. Self was Schatz’s predecessor as wing commander.

Schatz has been extremely accessible to the media, friendly and forthcoming, according to the general agreement of the reporters who most closely covered the base.

Schatz took command of the 314th Airlift Wing in May 2007, just as construction of privatized base housing under American Eagle Communities ground to a halt, and he leaves just as Hunt-Pinnacle LLC takes over the contract and resurrects construction of base housing.

The Air Force Expeditionary Center that Otey is leaving is the Air Force’s Center of Excellence for advanced expeditionary combat support training and education.

The center houses the Mobility Operations School, Expeditionary Operations School and the Expeditionary Center Resources Directorate.

Otey served as a weapons officer at the C-130 Weapons School at LRAFB from 1995 through 1997, Elkins said.

Otey, a Bronze Star recipient, is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours in military aircraft including the C-130E and the state-of-the-art C-130J.

Among 11 other awards, Otey received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and earned his pilot wings in 1989.