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    Career Copperhead becomes Wing Commander

    Career Copperhead becomes Wing Commander

    Photo By Tech. Sgt. Jayson Burns | Colonel Jessica Hastings, Commander, 161st Air Refueling Wing, and Major Adam Mcauly,...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Jayson Burns 

    161st Air Refueling Wing   

    It’s not at all common in active duty service for an Airman to spend his or her entire Air Force career at the same base, let alone the same unit. In the Air National Guard, however, it can be a different story.

    Colonel Jessica Hastings became commander of the 161st Air Refueling Wing on January 8th, 2022, just a few weeks after the unit’s 75th anniversary. Her military career didn’t start with Air Force, however, or even as a commissioned officer.

    “I enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1998 as an E-1 for college money,” Hastings said. “My goal was to serve my 6 year contract and move on with my civilian career as an airline pilot. About 4 years into that commitment, due to 9/11 attacks and the events that followed, I decided to pursue a career of flying in the military.”

    After undergraduate pilot training, Hastings arrived back at the 161st Air Refueling Wing in 2005, when it was simply known as the Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. She would go from being an instructor pilot for the 161st Operations Group, to the Chief of Wing Plans, and got her first command with the Operations Support Squadron in 2018.

    “Early in my career, I had the opportunity to serve as an aircrew member for one of our Aeromedical Evacuation missions from CENTCOM,” Hastings said. “Ensuring our military members received life-saving medical care- that mission has been one of the most rewarding of my military flying career.”

    Hastings has more than 3,100 flying hours in the KC-135, and now she’s responsible for the fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers assigned at Goldwater as well the over 800 Airmen serving in the unit. This of course brings a host of new challenges, including those brought about by COVID-19 in early 2020.

    “The military trains and fights in person and with direct lines of communication and effort,” Hastings said. “COVID introduced telework, remote training events, and reduced face to face interactions. This challenge was frustrating, but it has also demonstrated our ability to adapt and overcome, which is foundational to our capabilities.”

    To help maintain those capabilities, Hastings holds on to the concept of “service before self.”

    “Serving in the Air National Guard is not always easy,” Hastings said. “Balancing a civilian career, military career and family life is a challenge, and one part always seems to be giving to support another part. The majority of my career was serving voluntary missions and duties that kept me close to home, but it is important to remember why we wear the uniform; it is for the hard times when we are called upon to serve our nation and to answer the oath we take to serve.”

    The Air Force’s core values certainly help guide Airmen to be the best they can be, but they can also always look to the people beside them.

    “Our best resource is people,” Hastings said. “I am fortunate to have been guided and mentored by many people, some directly and some indirectly. It is important to listen more than you speak; you learn more that way.”

    GOLDWATER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ariz. – With 75 years already in the Wing’s pocket, Hastings plans on continuing the Copperhead legacy for 75 more. She doesn’t plan on doing this alone, but alongside every citizen airmen here in Arizona.

    “Every member has a unique contribution to the Wing and our mission,” Hastings said. “It is imperative to empower all Airmen. E-1 to O-6, all members are valued and supported, and our diversity is what makes us stronger.”



    Date Taken: 03.30.2022
    Date Posted: 03.30.2022 14:50
    Story ID: 417505
    Location: PHOENIX, AZ, US

    Web Views: 440
    Downloads: 0