As Brig. Gen. John B. Cooper prepares to leave his command of the 309th Maintenance Wing, he takes pride that employees in the organization are focused on accomplishing the mission.
The general is leaving Hill to serve as Director of Logistics, Installations and Mission Support, Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The change of leadership ceremony is Sept. 16 at 9 a.m. in Hangar 674 on the east side of the runway. Sue Dryden, 309th MXW deputy director, will serve as acting director.
"We are doing great in terms of mission accomplishments," he said. "We're focused. Everybody on the leadership team, as well as all the employees -- are engaged and motivated to support ongoing military operations."
"The mission," as described by the general, is to support our nation's defense by producing and delivering aircraft, software, and components to the warfighter. "In the roughly 800 days that I've been in command, the 309th has delivered 725 aircraft to the warfighter -- that in my mind is pretty impressive!"
He also noted that the missile maintenance group, which was under fire when he arrived in 2008, is beginning to out-produce customer demands in some critical areas.
"In 2008 the missile maintenance group was a collection of great people who needed support from senior leaders to fix things," the general said. "The program was underappreciated for quite awhile. I felt my job was to support the group to the best of my ability, get our logistics processes in order, and get the group to a point where we deliver perfect products every time. We are now at that point in some areas in the Group. I am excited about the progress they've made."
The 309th Software Maintenance Group "will have almost doubled in terms of size and output during my tour here," Cooper said, "They've attained a ranking of top 1 percent of industry -- not the Department of the Air Force or the Department of Defense, but in civilian industry -- for its quality software development, so customers come to SMXG for the toughest assignments, and they deliver every time."
The general sees a bright future for the 309th MXW.
"We are the designated depot of choice for fifth-generation aircraft, already
modifying the F-22, and recently being named the F-35 airframe depot, along with many associated components," Cooper said. "We'll also be bringing on depot work supporting remotely piloted aircraft. Our expert abilities in composites and electronics repair will ensure that when the Department of Defense looks to bring on the next generation of work they'll look to Hill Air Force Base first!"
And, he adds, leading the wing hasn't been without challenges.
"There are great people here at Hill, and we've had many 'ups', and some 'downs.' A long list of 309th people have been selected as winners for MAJCOM and Air Force-level awards, and that speaks to the quality of ourpeople. In my mind the quality of our people shone brightest when we ran into adversity, and then responded to it," he said. "I am proud of the efforts we made to find and help those in the wing down on their luck. We lost some friends, but we helped many get back on their feet, and we've built a network of pros who will continue to find those who need help."
Gen. Cooper took command of the 309th in July 2008 and in October of that year he pinned on his star.
"To be selected for wing command is humbling. To be selected for wing command while our nation's at war is a very special honor," he said. "It's a very special trust the Air Force has placed in me and I've been proud to serve.
"My family and I are very excited about moving to Europe," he said. "In fact, there may be only one good reason to leave Utah -- because we love it here -- and that's the opportunity to experience Europe. I look forward to my new job and all the new experiences and challenges that await."