Getting to know the vice commander

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  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Colonel S. Clinton Hinote is the vice commander, 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

He is a 1992 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. Prior to his assignment to the 52nd FW, he served as the commander, 3rd Fighter Training Squadron, Vance Air Force Base, Okla.

When were you notified of your assignment to Spangdahlem? What was your initial reaction or impression?

I heard about it right before Christmas, and I was a little shocked because Myra and I had always asked to be stationed overseas, and until now, the Air Force had always sent us to the hot and wet Southeast or the hot and dry Southwest. We had always heard great things about Spangdahlem from friends who had been stationed here, so we were very excited. I originally thought I would PCS here in the summer timeframe, and I was very surprised when I came back from Christmas leave and found out that I had to leave immediately to attend Centrifuge training and go to F-16 requalification training the week after. Since then, life has been a blur with all of the pre-command training, PCS processing, relinquishing command at my old base and my initial weeks here.

My first impression of the base is that it is a great wing with great leaders and great Airmen, but frankly people are a little tired. That's quite understandable given the pace of the last year or so. Heck, I'm tired even though I've only been here seven weeks. Of course I'm already on my fourth exercise! My hope is that we can finish strong through the inspections in June, then bring on a new set of commanders in July and have some "getting to know you" time that is less busy than the last few months have been.

What are some of your previous experiences that prepared you for the mission here?

Once you get past a certain point, the big thing that we bring to the table as officers is leadership because you just can't be an expert in everything. I'm certainly not an expert in munitions maintenance, logistics or medical care. I'm relying mostly on the leadership experiences I've had throughout my career as an officer. I really believe leadership is the key ingredient to our past and future success here at Spangdahlem because we have great Airmen here, and when they are properly trained and equipped and know what's expected of them, they shine. Our job as leaders is to give them what they need to be successful.

As a vice commander, what items of interest do you plan to focus on?

Well, that's kind of a trick question, because the first job of a vice commander is to support his or her wing commander, and that's what I'm going to do both now with Col. Tip Wight and later when our new commander takes command. Anything I can do to lighten the load of the wing commander is helpful, because wing commanders carry a very heavy load. I'm not sure most people realize how demanding their job really is. So for now, I'm going to focus on Saber 1's current priorities.

That being said, both my wife, Myra, and I share a passion for strengthening Air Force families, so that is something we will definitely pursue while we're here.

This is your only assignment overseas other than a year in Qatar. What is your impression of Germany and living in an allied country as a guest?

So far, I've really enjoyed the opportunities to meet people in the surrounding communities. I've been surprised to see how supportive they are of our presence here. The German people are very warm and friendly. I'm just in the early stages of learning the language, and I've seen one thing that is both frustrating and heartwarming. Whenever I try to speak German with the locals, most of them will immediately respond in English.

What are some ways you plan to support the CC's efforts to prepare and pass upcoming inspections?

We want to do more than just pass because I think we have excellent Airmen here, and we want them to be recognized as "Excellent."

As I'm typing this, I'm sitting in the Wing Operations Center in my MOPP gear practicing the skills we need to do well in our NATO FORCEVAL in June. The key thing I'm focusing on as our wing's lead inspector is making sure our folks know exactly what is expected of them and that they have the training they need to do their best. If everyone does the right thing at the right time and place with the right equipment and the right attitude, we will have no problems. The medical group has already showed us the way by earning an "Outstanding" on their Health Services Inspection, and we can do the same in June.

Can you tell us about your family?

I met my wife, Myra, when I was attending graduate school in Cambridge, Mass. Her family is from North Carolina, but she was actually born in Spain, and Spanish is her first language. She has been an excellent Air Force wife, and we determined early on in our marriage that we would make the best of every assignment that we were given. We have not had a bad assignment yet, although some didn't look like they were going to be too good at first. We have three children--Meg, Hunter, and Holly--who enjoy traveling and meeting new people. The Air Force life has been pretty good for us, although there have been some big sacrifices, especially in terms of family separation, that have been tough to deal with. When my family arrives in July, I will have been away from them for five of the six months in 2010. I am certainly looking forward to their arrival!

What are some of your hobbies?

Besides spending time with my family, I like to read and cycle. Since my bicycle was shipped over here, I've discovered the Eifel was made to be explored on a bike!