Leader Blues

Monday, February 02, 2009

TOP STORY>>Col. Otey: It’s a homecoming

Col. Gregory S. Otey took command of the 19th Airlift Wing from Brig. Gen. Rowayne A. Schatz Jr. at Little Rock Air Force Base on Wednesday during a ceremony attended by Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott III, commander of the 18th Air Force at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

“It is an honor, and I am very humbled to stand before you today as the commander of the 19th Airlift Wing. This is truly like coming home for the Otey family,” said the colonel, who was a weapons officer at the C-130 Weapons School at the air base from 1995 through 1997.

“I’m not saying I will not task you with multiple deployments and hard work,” Otey said at the ceremony held inside Hangar 276. “When I ask a lot of you, I owe you a lot. I owe you the resources and the training to accomplish the mission. I owe you and your family support when you prepare to deploy, while you’re deployed, and upon your return.”

Otey takes over the premier C-130 training and combat center whose mission is critical to America’s mission around the world, Scott said.

Scott also noted the contributions the air base has made to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The base has sent several C-130s and hundreds of airmen in support of both wars.

The delivery of supplies and personnel on C-130s has reduced the use of truck convoys in Iraq, keeping U.S. soldiers away from roadside bombs.

Scott praised Schatz’s “record of excellence,” adding that “under General Schatz’s leadership, the 19th (Airlift) Wing’s dedication and commitment has remained nothing less than impressive.

“Just under two years ago, Team Little Rock welcomed Brig. Gen. Rowayne A. Schatz, Jr. and his family to the Rock…the home of the C-130 Center of Excellence and the largest C-130 fleet in the world,” Scott said.

“Under General Schatz’s leadership, the 19th [Airlift] Wing’s dedication and commitment has remained nothing less than impressive.”

“We must win today’s fight while preparing for the future. That is exactly what Little Rock has done and continues to do. Your leadership will be critical to this success. This is an awesome responsibility and it rests with you,” Scott added.

Schatz has been promoted to 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 for the national military command center.

The Air Force Expeditionary Center at Fort Dix, N.J., that Otey had previously commanded 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 is a 1987 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and earned his pilot’s wings in 1989.

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.

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.

Schatz was presented with the Legion of Merit for his service to Little Rock Air Force Base, which included securing more than $28.7 million in construction projects.

They included two $10 million appropriations for the joint education center financed in partnership with the city of Jacksonville, as well as funding for fitness, sports and wellness centers, and family housing.

Schatz said, “Kim and I have been in many communities, but the community support here is second to none. We’ll leave here with a big chunk taken out of our hearts. It’s been a privilege to serve you.”

Leader senior writer John Hofheimer and the Combat Air-lifter newspaper contributed to this report.