Tuesday, August 03, 2010

TOP STORY > >New commander at base ready for challenges ahead

Leader senior staff writer

Recurring themes were family, community and excellence Monday at Little Rock Air Force Base as Col. Michael A. Minihan formally assumed command of the 19th Airlift Wing from Col. Gregory S. Otey, who is headed to an important job at the Pentagon.

Lt. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, commander of the 18th Air Force, presided over the traditional change-of-command ceremony in which the wing’s flag, or guidon, was transferred from Otey to Allardice and from Allardice to Minihan.

Allardice also pinned the Legion of Honor medal on Otey for a long list of accomplishments during the 18 months he served as base commander.

“It’s an honor to rejoin with old friends who taught me how to be a (tactical) airlifter,” Minihan told the 19th Airlift Wing Black Knights assembled in a hangar for the ceremony. “We enjoy the warm embrace of an award-winning community, and there is no place I’d rather be.”

Minihan served from May 1991 until September 1994 as a command pilot with the 61st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base.

“The green-tail model E (vintage C-130) in front of me is a beautiful sight for sore eyes. It’s an honor to partner with the 314th (Air Education Wing) and the 189th Airlift Wing and be part of the C-130 Center of Excellence.”

Minihan comes from Travis Air Force Base in California, where he was the vice commander of the 60th Air Mobility Wing.

To the Otey family, he said, “Greg, Lisa and the Otey boys, thank you for your warm embrace and making this transition so easy.
I pledge to carry on your mission, people and fun focus. It’s not lost on me that I’m standing here today in large part because of you.”


“Let me take a moment to thank my family. I owe them my happiness and they make me complete,” Minihan said. “The true heroes in my life have always sat at the dining room table and they still do.”

Allardice spoke to the assembled airmen and guests, who included area mayors and representatives from the congressional delegation.

“Thank you families for all you do to support our airmen,” the general said.

To local community leaders, he said, “Your leadership and partnership with our airmen here on the base is so important, I want to thank you for everything you do to support our airmen every single day because without you we just don’t have an installation and it’s a mutual relation.

“Virtually anything that happens in the world of substance, you’ll have the Air Mobility Command there, and where you have the Air Mobility Command, you have C-130s and the men and women of Little Rock Air Force Base and the 19th Airlift Wing are involved.

“I’m proud today to stand on the same stage as these two great leaders of the tactical airlift community.”


“The 19th Airlift Wing is probably the most diverse wing in the 18th Air Force. I don’t have any other wings with the number of airplanes you have, and the number of units in geographically located positions. You have assets in Wyoming. You have assets in Colorado Springs. You have assets here and at Keesler and continual deployment in the sandbox, as we call it.”

He praised Otey for being “the driving force behind the impressive operations center, consistently involved in contingency operations, for helping stand up the C-130J operations locally and in Afghanistan and for full-force integration of the Guard and the Reserves to present a homogenous operation in the Air Force.”

Allardice said Otey’s assignment to the Pentagon as Senior Air Force Planner for Joint Matters is a position (where) we put our very best and brightest. It’s a huge, huge job. He’s going into what is often (a general-) making job.”


In his turn, Otey thanked his troops and his family and said his personal priorities had been faith, family and the Air Force.

“The good Lord continues to bless the Otey family,” he said. “Lisa, you’re truly an amazing, wonderful wife mother and friend.

Little Rock Air Force Base is where we met. My kids, Jake, Chris and Luke, I’m proud to be the commander of the 19th Airlift Wing,” he said, “but prouder to be your dad.”

“The past 18 months have been a great ride,” Otey said. “Community leaders are huge players in our Air Force family.”

He said the sign at the Vanden-berg entrance to the base says “Home to the AMC’s best community support,” in reference to winning the Abilene Trophy for best community, and he said it was fitting that the backdrop was the new Joint Education Center. “This is a one-of-a kind community when it comes to support,” he said.


“Mini and Ashley, thank you for what you will do. You are blessed to command one of AMC’s jewels.

“Mini, I could not think of a better person to pass the Black Knight flag to.”

Otey said his mantra had been “Mission first, people always and nothing but 19th Airlift Wing excellence. And while doing that we were going to have some fun along the way.”

Minihan said he would strive to maintain those goals.

“We are combat airlifters,” Minihan said. “Team Little Rock, that’s our mission and our mindset.

“We are tactical outreach and we are relentless in our pursuit of on-time and on-target.

“We’ve taken over 21,000 convoys off the road in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Minihan said.


“Some days our mission is to train and some days it is to rest and reconstitute. We are the bus that takes warriors to work and brings them home again. We’re the delivery van that takes beans and bullets to the front lines, and some days we’re the ambulance fighting to preserve precious American lifeblood, and some sorrowful days we are the hearse that flies home one last time.”

“Right now 735 of our airlifters are in harm’s way in the air, on the ground, inside the wire, outside the wire at this very moment we are supporting soldiers, sailors, airmen marines and coasties. (Families) are praying that we keep their loved ones safe.”

Minihan is a third-generation Air Force officer. His grandfather flew a B-26 and his father was another successful Air Force officer, Allardice said. “He understands the Air Force mission and is committed to excellence.

“Mike, I know you’ll hit the ground running,” the general said.

Minihan is a command pilot with more than 3,200 flying hours in a variety of aircraft including the C-130. He has received many awards for accomplishments to include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with three oak-leaf clusters and the Air Medal with five oak-leaf clusters.


As Allardice pinned the Legion of Merit on Otey, a citation was read crediting him with commanding the wing with 52 C-130s and 4,300 active-duty personnel, the largest C-130 contributor to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

The base has 17 planes continuously in theater and supplies 40 percent of the C-130 combat airlift capability in areas of responsibility.

Otey was cited for the base’s runner-up finish in the 2009 Air Mobility commanders-in chief installation-excellence award.

“He rescued Little Rock Air Force Base’s privatized-housing program by implementing the new $83 million housing contract for 141 new and 859 renovated housing units,” the general said.

“He championed energy savings, reduced fossil-fuel reliance, ran synthetic fuel tests for the C-130J.”

The citation also says Otey guided the base to 96 percent compliance of 812 check-list items for the AMC’s 2010 air-traffic system inspection and the base received an excellent rating on compliance inspection.

“He reflects great credit upon himself and the Air Force,” according to the citation.

The Legion of Merit is conferred on officers and enlisted men of the armed forces of the United States and on citizens of other countries “who shall have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services.”