Pemberton takes command of the 434th ARW

  • Published
  • By Douglas Hays
Back Home again in Indiana is an anthem of sorts for millions of Hoosiers, but only one of them is the commander of the 434th Air Refueling Wing.

Col. Thom Pemberton assumed command of the 434th ARW at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana during a ceremony April 10.

For Pemberton, a 1985 graduate of Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., coming back to Grissom is coming home.

“I grew up and learned about the Air Force Reserve here,” Pemberton said.

This isn’t his first stint at Grissom. Pemberton was first assigned to the base in 1992 as a KC-135R evaluator navigator with the 305th Air Refueling Wing.

A year later he joined the Air Force Reserve and the 74th Air Refueling Squadron.

As the KC-135 cockpit was upgraded and navigators were replaced by computers, he applied for, and was accepted, for undergraduate pilot training in 1998.

Upon completion of that training and follow on combat crew training, he returned to Grissom in 1999 as a wing plans officer.

As he moved up the chain he held positions in tactics, mission development operations support, before becoming the deputy commander of the 434th Operations Group in 2009.

It was then, he decided to take a senior leadership route.

“People pushed me outside of my comfort zone and helped me grow as a leader,” Pemberton said.

In 2010 he moved to MacDill, AFB, Florida where he served as the 927th Operations Group commander.

Following his time at McDill, the colonel moved to Scott AFB, Illinois, where he was first the Reserve Management Group Det. 2 program manager before becoming the Det. 4 Reserve Integration Organization’s commander.

In 2015 he became the 459th Operations Group commander at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and in 2018 became the 514th Air Mobility Wing commander at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

In addressing the wing for the first time as its commander, Pemberton said he was proud to be a part of the most capable air refueling wing in the world.

“The KC-135 has been a workhorse of combatant commanders for many years, all over the world,” he said, “but it’s the Airmen that take the time from their families and employers to meticulously maintain, support and operate these aircraft in harm’s way, giving back to their country.”

In explaining his leadership style and philosophy Pemberton was very clear.

“I pledge that I will be a servant leader,” he said. “I will stand shoulder to shoulder with you and ensure you have the tools necessary to do your mission.

“I will not take for granted the responsibility that we have to protect this nation,” he added.

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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