More than 250 of the Airmen in his new command did not attend the ceremony in which Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum was officially named the new commander of the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. One contingent of the Michigan Air National Guardsmen is in Europe, another is at an island air base in the Pacific Ocean.
While Slocum, who takes the helm at Selfridge after serving for several years at National Guard Bureau headquarters in Maryland, said he’s certainly looking forward to getting to know and working alongside all of the roughly 1,700 Citizen-Airmen in his command, the absence of those two groups was “exactly how it should be.”
“The mission always trumps ceremony,” Slocum said. “These Michigan Airmen are doing exactly what the nation is requesting and, quite frankly, doing exactly what the nation needs in this modern era: putting service before self. My job is to empower, train, and motivate our Airmen to continue to be spectacularly successful.”
Slocum officially assumed command of the 127th Wing during a Nov. 2 ceremony at Selfridge. Slocum relieved Col. Philip R. Sheridan as the wing commander. Sheridan will continue to serve in the 127th Wing as the wing’s vice commander, a position he previously held.
“I would like to thank Col. Sheridan for his leadership and service,” Slocum said. “The 127th has a remarkable track record of success. I’m excited to have the opportunity to lead the Wing into a new phase of enduring contributions to our country and to the State of Michigan.”
Slocum had been serving as the Inspector General of the U.S. Air National Guard when he was selected as the 127th Wing’s next commander. For four years, he served as the ANG’s director of safety, where he led the development of several notable programs, including a suicide prevention and resiliency initiative known as the “Wingman Project;” a mid-air aircraft collision avoidance program that was adopted across the Dept. of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration; and authored the ANG’s indigenous human factors for maintenance training curriculum. In 2013, the general was inducted into the U.S. Air Force Safety Hall of Fame. Slocum is a command pilot who initially joined the Air Force in 1984, with most of his flight time initially in the F-4 Phantom and, since the early 1990s, in the F-16 Falcon. In 1992, he joined the Arizona Air National Guard and served with the 162nd Fighter Wing in Tucson, Ariz., until joining the ANG headquarters element in 2009.
Brig. Gen. Leonard W. Isabelle, Jr., commander, Michigan Air National Guard, gave accolades to Sheridan. The outgoing commander was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal during the ceremony.
Sheridan had served as wing commander since early 2014. After service in the U.S. Marine Corps and the Kansas Air National Guard as a pilot, Sheridan has served as a member of the Michigan Air National Guard since 1996.
“What Brig. Gen. Slocum will quickly discover, and in fact, probably already has, is that he is now leading and serving alongside some of our nation’s most dedicated patriots,” said Sheridan. “Our Michigan Airmen take a back seat to no one when it comes to not only serving our nation, but to doing so in a cost-efficient manner.”
The absence of so many Airmen on deployment during Slocum’s change of command ceremony is a routine fact of life for the 127th Wing. During Fiscal Year 2014, which ended Sept. 30, 2014, the wing reported that 570 Citizen-Airmen deployed from the base to operations and exercises in more than two dozen countries on four different continents.
In addition to serving as the 127th Wing commander, Slocum also serves as the commander of Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which is the duty station for some 4,500 total personnel, including about 3,000 members of various National Guard and Reserve commands from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs & Border Protection units also have significant presences at the base. Combined, the total economic impact of payroll and operations at Selfridge is estimated to be well above $825 million annually.
“Selfridge has a rich history and is one of today’s preeminent installations in the United States,” Slocum said. “The many agencies and organizations that make up Team Selfridge make us a benchmark for inter-governmental collaboration, cooperation, and efficiency. The men and women of the 127th Wing represent the best of our nation, and of our community. When you combine all of these strengths, I have no doubt that Selfridge and the 127th have a bright future serving Michigan and our nation.”
Slocum takes command at Selfridge after several years of some question and concern about what the future may hold for the Air National Guard at the base and, as a result, of the base itself. The 127th Wing flies two types of aircraft at Selfridge: The KC-135 Stratotanker and the A-10 Thunderbolt II. The A-10s, an air-to-ground attack fighter known popularly as the “Warthog,” have been the subject of considerable debate at the highest levels of Air Force and Congressional leadership, with a number of proposals being put forward in recent years to mothball the A-10 fleet. Such a move likely would have a significant impact on job totals at Selfridge.
The A-10s at Selfridge are flown by the “Red Devils” of the 107th Fighter Squadron, a unit which first fought in World War I and has been a part of the Michigan Air National Guard since 1926. Selfridge was officially designated as a “pursuit” base - the pre-World War II title for fighter aircraft - in 1922 and has had fighter type aircraft assigned to the base since its inception in 1917.
“While we have a focused attention on working to preserve the jobs of our Michigan Airmen who fly, maintain and support the A-10 - you don’t reward someone for a century of a job well done by taking away their livelihood - Brig. Gen. Isabelle and I understand that all of our Airmen at Selfridge, the men and women working on tankers and in the dining facility, our security people, medical, all of them, they bring skill and talent to the table,” Slocum said. “They are eager to take on new missions, new challenges. They have more than earned the right to be rewarded with new opportunities, right here at Selfridge.”
Story by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton, 127th Wing Public Affairs, Michigan Air National Guard
Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Hanet