Hutchinson reflects on successful 5 years in command

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Brooks Payette
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Five years ago, Col. Paul Hutchinson chose to leave his role as a traditional guardsman to serve as commander of the 157th Air Refueling Wing.

It was a decision that proved to be beneficial to Hutchinson and the wing, as one of the wing's most decorated and exciting periods will come to a close on Sunday when Hutchinson relinquishes command to Col. Shawn "Rob" Burrus.

During his five-year tenure as commander, the 157 ARW excelled in its total force integration with the 64th Air Refueling Squadron, was selected as the Air Force's first Air National Guard-led KC-46A Pegasus main op-erating base and received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award twice.

"I am honored and proud to have commanded this wing and thankful I was given the opportunity to serve shoulder-to-shoulder with the airmen here," said Hutchinson, who joined the NHANG as a B Flight commander of the 133rd Air Refueling Squadron in 1996. "The support I have received from airmen over the past five years has made me a better commander. They are outstanding."

Despite the list of wing accomplishments and numerous distinguished visits, there was a more somber moment that stuck out most for Hutchinson upon reflecting of his time in command - the honorable trans-fer of Master Sgt. David Poirier.

Poirier passed away in February 2014 during a deployment to Qatar as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Poirier served with the 157 ARW for 19 of his 22 years in the military.

"It was a very emotional and meaningful time as commander for me," said Hutchinson. "To watch the wing come together as a family to honor Dave's family was an incredibly powerful statement about what it means to be part of this wing and the care and compassion the airmen have for those who serve."

Hutchinson will now serve as chief of staff of the New Hampshire Air National Guard, working directly for Brig. Gen. Carolyn Protzmann. In conjunction with his return to a traditional role, Hutchinson will also return to his civilian employer, American Air-lines, in January after a six-year leave of absence. Prior to his leave of absence, Hutchinson had accumulated 5,500 civilian flying hours to accompany his 6,600-plus military flight hours.

"I am grateful to American Airlines for supporting my leave for the past six years," he said.

Though Hutchinson leaves his post as a seasoned veteran, he admitted there was a transition period upon taking command with the challenges of understanding workforce classifications, and learning to fund both wing and national priorities. He served in a tradi-tional role from 1997 until he took command of the wing, including his role as Operations Group Commander from 2007 to 2010.

"I was fortunate to be quickly mentored by the full time and part time staff to understand what it takes to run a first-class organization," he said.

Hutchinson originally gave a five-year commitment to the position and believes it is benefi-cial to an organization to bring in new leadership. He added that he is committed to ensur-ing his successor has a smooth transition into the role. Hutchinson expects Burrus to keep momentum for the wing moving in the right direction.

"He is absolutely the right person to lead the wing through this next period," said Hutchinson of Burrus, who is the current 157th Operations Group Commander. "I am sure he will bring the wing and its airmen to new heights."

Hutchinson's new position ensures he will remain closely linked to the 157 ARW while shifting from day-to-day operations to more strategic long-term planning for the wing. It will also entail a promotion to brigadier general, which is expected to become official next year.

Going forward, Hutchinson expects the 157 ARW to lead the nation in the employment of the KC-46A Pegasus and to maximize the capability of the weapon system for the country.

"We will be growing at a time when other units are shrinking," said Hutchinson. "The fu-ture of Pease is very bright."

He is looking forward to returning as a traditional, but said he will miss going to work each day with airmen who are selfless in serving the unit and the country in addition to caring for one another.

"They are exceptional people that deliver every time at a moment's notice," he said. " The simple thing that makes his wing unique is even under times of great stress, people have treated each other with a high level of respect and dignity."