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A day in Col. Wyn Elder’s life

Wing commander in leadership role

Arriving early and working late, Col. Wyn Elder, commander, 62nd Airlift Wing, takes time to jot a few notes to himself before heading to another meeting. /J.M. Simpson

Day in the life of Col. Wyn Elder

Photos by J.M. Simpson

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    Col. Wyn Elder, commander, 62nd Airlift Wing, listens to Staff Sgt. Brian Lawrence talk about his duties in the Fuel Systems Maintenance Facility as Tech Sgt. Timothy Kennedy looks on.

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    Lights On

    After inviting the children to help him light the McChord Field Christmas Tree, Col. Wyn Elder and some of his Christmas helpers see the result of their efforts.

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Col. Wyn Elder said everyone has a role to play and that every role matters.

I told him he had articulated classic Stoic philosophy.

Elder's actions last Monday proved me right.  

Located at McChord Field, the 62nd Airlift Wing is part of Air Mobility Command and provides the Department of Defense with fast, flexible and global airlift capability. Elder has been Wing commander since June 2011.

"A commander must build trust," Elder said early Monday morning.

"You must know what you are doing, and you have got to be about Airmen and their families, and the units."

Elder's sense of leadership and rise to wing command is comprised of a diverse background.

The son of an Air Force officer, Elder grew up loving architecture and aviation.  After graduation from high school, he matriculated to the University of Virginia on Air Force ROTC and golf scholarships to work on a degree in architecture.

When Elder learned that architecture was not the best way to earn pilot wings, he changed the blueprint of his life, and majored in mathematics.

With his commission in hand, he entered the service only to be told that he could not become a pilot due to drawdowns in the force.

"I then decided to go into the maintenance field," the father of three sons said.

"It was one of the best things I've done personally and professionally."

Over time, he earned his pilot's wings, secured a Masters in Business Administration, attended required Air Force schools, garnered the distinction of having served as a presidential advance agent, and became a pilot instructor.

"Along the way I met people and ideas from academia, the military and industry," Elder continued.

"I am not the typical mobility guy," Elder said as he headed for the first of many meetings crowding his day.

Comfortable with himself and intellectually curious, Elder asks a lot of questions of those around him.

"I think people will do their jobs if they are empowered and know that the boss trusts them," explained Elder as we headed back to his office.

He kept abreast of an on-going Nuclear Surety Inspection, held a teleconference on the challenges new Wing commanders face when introduced to the Joint Base concept, and held meetings with key staff.

In those meetings, Elder talked at length about sexual assault.

He stated that Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force Chief of Staff, has made it clear that the culture in the military that allows for sexual misconduct will change.

Elder strongly encouraged his staff to watch The Invisible War, an investigative documentary about the epidemic of sexual harassment, assault and rape within the military and its effects on victims.

"This is a direct verbal order to talk to victims willing to talk and to talk with victim advocates," Elder pronounced.

After a noontime workout, Elder and Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Drake drove over to the Fuel Systems Maintenance Facility.

Unannounced, they walked in and met Staff Sgt. Brian Lawrence, a shift supervisor

"How are you?" Elder said cheerfully.

Shop chief Jim Haas and Tech. Sgt. Timothy Kennedy soon joined the conversation about morale, living in the dormitories and mission accomplishments.

"This is really neat," Kennedy whispered. "To have the Wing commander drop by is great."

Back at his office, Elder jotted down a few notes and then took off to officiate at McChord Field's Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

In a nod to families, Elder invited children forward to flip the switch on.

Faces lit up like the tree.

As Santa handed out candy canes, Elder walked around and talked to Airmen family members.

As his workday ended, it was clear he had demonstrated his belief in servant leadership.

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