Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TOP STORY >> Change of command at air base

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base welcomed incoming commander Col. Gerald “Gyro” Donohue of the 19th Airlift Wing during a change-of-command ceremony Tuesday overseen by Lt. Gen. Giovanni K. Tuck, commander of the 18th Air Force.

Donohue’s last assignment was commander of the 86th Operations Group, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where he oversaw the Air Force’s largest and busiest C-130 and operational support aircraft squadrons.

Donohue takes over from outgoing commander Col. Charles E. Brown, who led LRAFB since 2015. Brown is headed for a top position with NATO in Mons, Belgium, as a senior assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Known as SHAPE, it is the headquarters of Allied Command Operations, which has controlled all NATO operations since 1949.

Donohue will work with the 314th Airlift Wing, 189th Airlift Wing, 913th Airlift Group and the 29th Weapons Squadron on the base. He is responsible for organizing, training, sustaining and equipping personnel for more than 65 C-130s.

Donohue addressed the elected officials and community leaders who attended the ceremony.

“Thank you for your unwavering support to the airmen of the 19th Airlift Wing and Team Little Rock. I’ve heard incredible accounts for your willingness to move mountains for our families and our shared communities. I look forward to learning from and working with each of you in the weeks and months ahead,” Donohue said.

“Our ability to serve and to pursue our childhood dreams in the profession of arms comes with a cost and a burden, most often felt by our families. They are the ones left behind to hold down the fort in our absences, whether on deployment or long grueling days on the (flight)line. For you service for loving airmen, Clara and I thank you and will not forget the sacrifices you made and look forward to teaming with you over the years,” Donohue said.

Donohue entered the Air Force in 1995 after graduating from the Air Force Academy with a bachelor’s of science in psychology.

He went on to Squadron Officer School at Air University, Maxwell AFB, Ala, in 2000; Army Command and General Staff Officers Course, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in 2008, and Air War College in 2010.

Donohue is a command pilot with more than 500 combat and combat support hours in Iraq and Afghanistan supporting Operations Southern Watch, Northern Watch, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.

He flies C-130E, C-130H, and C- 130J aircraft with more than 4,000 hours.

After completing pilot training at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., he served as a C-9A instructor pilot with the 75th Airlift Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. He transitioned to the C-130, first with the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, and later with the 39th Airlift Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.

He was previously assigned to LRAFB in 2004 when he was a student in a C-130 weapons instructor course.

Donohue commanded the 386th Expeditionary Operations SupportSquadron, Southwest Asia from 2011 to 2012. He led a team of airmen and contractors providing operations and airfield support for assigned and transient airmen and aircraft prosecuting Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom.

Donohue became the deputy commander for operations, 317th Airlift Group, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, where he was responsible for the organization, training and equipping of two airlift squadrons and an operations support squadron..

His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Aerial Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster and Air Force Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters.

He was promoted to colonel on Aug. 1, 2015.

Soon after Brown took command at LRAFB, Team Little Rock defended the base and its 10,000 personnel during an active-shooter attack. Base security ended the incident without loss of life or injury other than the shooter, who was killed in front of the main gate.

Members of the 19th Airlift Wing worked with State Police and Arkansas National Guard to assist with a munitions truck explosion in February that killed the driver on I-40 in Franklin County. Airmen disposed of 54,000 pounds of explosives, preventing further loss of life.

This spring, the 19th Airlift Wing organized two C-130J and 25 support personnel in less than 16 hours to expedite humanitarian support to Peru, providing relief to 3 million people displaced by flooding.

Brown, who has been a colonel since July 2012, said the 19th Airlift Wing’s “attention to detail, loyalty to mission, ceaseless innovations make this the true home of Combat Airlift.”

Brown said he was thankful to the families for their selfless dedication, loyalty, looking out for one another while deployed.

Before commanding LRAFB, Brown was the Pentagon’s assistant deputy director of Joint Strategic Planning, Strategic Plans and Policy, Joint Staff. He was division chief for the Strategic Alignment Division, Joint Staff at the Pentagon from June 2013 - April 2014.

He was commander of the 62nd Airlift Squadron here from April 2009 - April 2011 and as the 314th Airlift Wing’s chief of wing safety from July 2008 - March 2009.

Brown was a national security fellow at Harvard in 2012.

He earned a master’s of national security and strategic studies in 2008 from the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He was a distinguished graduate of the Squadron Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in 2002. He earned a bachelor’s of science in criminal justice at Florida State University in 1994.

Brown is a senior pilot with 1,600 hours in C-130E, C-130H, C-130J aircraft and the F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet. He has served Operations Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.