WILL ROGERS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Okla. --
Almost 1,000 Airmen gathered in a hangar beneath a garrison flag that hung from the rafters – a flag that witnessed the beginning of an era six years ago and now the beginning of a new one. As it and the Airmen watched the 137th Special Operations Wing (137th SOW) commander firmly grasp the newest guidon, they also watched only the second commander to ever pilot the Wing since changing to a special operations wing in 2015.
On Dec. 1, 2018 at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City, Col. Daniel R. Fowler, formerly the 137th Special Operations Group (137th SOG) commander, assumed command of the 137th SOW from Col. Devin R. Wooden, the sixteenth 137th SOW commander and the one who led the Wing through its largest mission change to date.
“Col. Wooden’s example of leadership has been perfect for the Wing,” said Fowler, now only the 17th wing commander in the history of the wing. “Watching him for this short time, I learned leadership requires patience, strategic vision and steadfast application to provide stability, no matter what changes the future might hold.”
Fowler said he will shift the Wing’s focus to the new Operational Reserve construct, propelling the Wing into a balance between deployments and home station readiness.
“Inherent in our tasking from the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is a continually deployed agenda,” he said. “This tasking will force us to convert from a Strategic Reserve (think Cold War era) to a more modern concept. One that requires the Reserve Component to continually deploy, but at a slower operational tempo than Active Duty/Regular Air Force and with much more predictability.”
Though only briefly the 137th SOG commander, Fowler is no stranger to AFSOC. His most recent position off the base was the Air National Guard Advisor to the AFSOC commander at Hurlbert Field, Florida. As advisor, Fowler was responsible for providing liaison and advice to the AFSOC commander on AFSOC Air National Guard (ANG) units for verification of statistical data and coordinating ANG units into deployments, exercises, and real world events and training.
“Much of my time at NGB and AFSOC was dedicated to developing this new concept of an Operational Reserve and determining how that shift changes the construct of an ANG Wing,” said Fowler. “The experience gave me a unique understanding of the senior leadership approach to the initiative. I am better prepared to lead the Wing through the challenge of providing assured access to Guard expertise and experience in support of the fight while ensuring we maintain good balance in the lives of our Citizen Airmen.”
As a former Joint Tactical Air Control-certified air liaison officer (ALO), former F-15 Eagle pilot and current MC-12W pilot, Fowler understands the multiple aspects of the Wing’s mission, as well as the support needed to accomplish it.
“It gave me a view of the Air Force that isn’t just flying,” said Fowler. “The reason we dominate the air is to protect U.S. ground forces and enhance their lethality. ALOs help use airpower for the ground commander’s intent. Our MC-12W team – including pilots, flying intelligence, ground intelligence and liaisons – do the same. The manned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system is more complex, but the intent is the same.”
As a distinguished graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy with a degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in mathematics, Fowler said he wants to combine his analytical mind with his AFSOC experience to guide the wing into its next chapter of its special operations mission.
“I’m famous for saying ‘show me your math on that’, which literally means I want to see your logical approach and see that you’ve considered the second and third order effects,” said Fowler. “I want to address the current problem while ensuring we create long-term solutions and processes that will prevent the problem next time.”
Fowler has observed the Airmen of the Wing since April of this year and said he believes that the positive attitudes of 137th Airmen will continue to carry the mission into its next chapter.
“There is a determined approach to problem-solving that I first noticed from the staff level and have come to appreciate even more now that I’m here,” he said. “When the MC-12 conversion began, there was no other example to copy or any other military unit exactly like this to follow. The members of the wing – the entire Wing including AMC units, ACC units, school houses, mission support and operations – all got involved, converted to the AFSOC frame of mind, and helped develop a plan that is still being carefully adapted and enhanced today. It’s impressive.”
Fowler said he plans to build off that positivity and create an always progressing future.
“My experience outside of the wing strengthens my understanding of the trials this wing has overcome and enhances my ability to lead it through the challenges we have yet to face,” said Fowler. “I will do that while focusing on what matters to this wing – our core values, our mission, and cultivation of the Citizen Airmen balance – which allows us to preserve expertise and maintain operational relevance.”
Before rendering his final salute as the 137th SOW commander, Wooden, who has been at Will Rogers since his initial enlistment in 1986, congratulated Fowler not only on his new command, but also for the more than 1,100 Airmen that will surround him for the years to come.
“Good luck and God’s speed,” said Wooden, who is slated to officially retire in March of next year after more than 32 years of service. “Congratulations on your command. I’m already envious of what I know is ahead of you and what you’re going to be a part of.”