From cradle to commander: Meet the vice

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
 The 52nd Fighter Wing vice commander accepted his position in July this year.

Col. Joseph McFall has since been learning about the Eifel region's culture and Spangdahlem's mission and Airmen.

"My family and I are in 100 percent support of the Saber nation," he said. "I'd never imagined that we'd get this assignment -- and so far, it's been everything we could have asked for and more.

"I'd better be smiling when you see me," he said with a laugh.

McFall's father was a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot during the Vietnam War. After his four-year tour, he left military service to go to school to learn aircraft repair. During this time, he bought a civilian aircraft from the airport to tinker with and repair the engine at home.

McFall said some of his earliest childhood memories are of piloting that aircraft with his dad. He remembers the feel of the aircraft yoke in his hands, gravity's weight as he pulled the stick back and the stomach-wrenching sensation when he pushed it forward.

By age 10, McFall said he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life. He knew he enjoyed the feeling of flight, air shows and everything about aircraft. As soon as he grew of age, he applied for and was accepted into the Air Force Academy.

"It was a total lifestyle change and culture shock," he said of entering academy life. "I really didn't know if I had made the right decision, but I stuck with it. I kept thinking, 'This isn't going to beat me.'"

He earned his commission in 1993 and entered pilot training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and he said the experience was everything he had wanted it to be. Unique training opportunities opened up for him, and he soon found himself in the seat of an F-16¬ Fighting Falcon, which would become his main weapons system.

His first duty station after training was Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, in 1995. While there, he deployed twice in support of combat operations in Iraq. In 1998, his squadron's operations officer said the Republic of Korea needed pilots, and anyone who volunteered may get their choice of assignments afterward. There were two choices: Spangdahlem AB or Aviano AB, Italy. McFall and one other pilot accepted the offer.

Both McFall and the other pilot wished to go to Spangdahlem, but due to the Air Force's personnel system, McFall's follow-on was Aviano.

The time had come for McFall to leave for Kunsan AB, ROK. He bid his wife and newborn child goodbye and left for his one-year tour as a wing scheduler and pilot for the 80th Fighter Squadron at Kunsan. His wife visited often during that long tour, and soon it was time for the McFall family to leave for Aviano.

He arrived at the 510th Fighter Squadron at Aviano in April of 1999 -- just in time to fly nearly 55 days straight in support of Operation Allied Force, the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War.

"This was the first time I realized that all the things you practice, all the things you build into muscle memory -- they really matter," said McFall, who now has more than 2,700 flying hours with 795 flown during combat. "During missions, I'd think 'Wow, I just had a missile shot at me.'

"It was nice to see the direct benefits of our training," he added.

His time with the 510th FS was filled with various weapons training deployments to sites throughout all of Europe. In 2000, he deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Southern Watch, an operation to control airspace near Iraq following the Gulf War. The next spring, he deployed to Incirlik AB, Turkey, in support of Operation Northern Watch.

After Aviano, McFall arrived at the Defense Language Institute in Arlington, Va., to learn Danish as his next assignment was as a Royal Danish air force exchange officer. He arrived in Denmark in late 2002 and flew with the nation's air force until 2004.

When Operation Iraqi Freedom began in March 2003, McFall deployed to the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, with the Danish air force to provide combat support. He was able to see first-hand the power of joint and coalition efforts to securing global peace and security.

In 2004, McFall began his intermediate developmental education at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. After graduating, he left for a staff position as the chief of combat targets at the Joint Functional Component Command-Network Warfare at Fort George G. Meade, Md.

"That assignment was definitely interesting, especially for a pilot," he said with a grin. "It was a joint assignment, and it was fascinating to see how all the branches of our military interact with each other at that level."

His next assignment to Misawa AB, Japan, would last from 2008 to 2011 where he would work as the director of operations for the 14th Fighter Squadron, the 35th Operations Support Squadron commander and the 35th Operations Group deputy commander.

Then, something happened that McFall said he would never forget.

A magnitude 8.9 earthquake caused a devastating tsunami to strike and destroy much of the coast of Japan March 11, 2011. Misawa Airmen began immediately to render humanitarian aid to towns along the coast.

"It was a crazy time," he said. "At about a mile from the coast, you could see a dirt line from where the water had landed. At about half a mile from the coast, it was completely leveled. There was nothing there."

McFall left Misawa in August to go to school at the National War College at Fort McNair, Wash. D.C. After graduating, he began his current assignment as the 52nd FW vice commander.

McFall said he is completely in step with 52nd FW Commander David Julazadeh's wing priorities and goals but has a few leadership tips of his own to share with Spangdahlem Airmen.

"You will do well personally when you focus on the people who work for you," he said. "Of course set your own personal goals, but if you spend the majority of your time taking care of your people, you'll learn that team success equals your success."

He also said that the U.S. Air Force generally employs the kind of people who have a positive outlook or attitude. He enjoys interacting with those who have an immense pride in who they are and what they do.

"You'll always see me smiling," he said. "We, as Airmen, work a lot, but you can always find something fun about what you do. It's a neat job to be an Airman in today's Air Force."