Maintenance Group welcomes new commander

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jessica Kendziorek
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

Lt. Col. Steven W. Fortson took command of the 403rd Maintenance Group during an assumption of command ceremony in the Roberts Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Facility auditorium at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Oct. 4. both in person and via Facebook live.

The 403rd Maintenance Group’s mission is to maintain the fleet health for the 403rd Wing’s 10 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft in support of tactical airlift missions and the 10 WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft for the only Department of Defense aerial weather reconnaissance mission. The group also provides comprehensive logistical support to assigned units by analyzing requirements and estimating capabilities in order to ensure combat readiness.

Presiding over the ceremony was Col. Jeffrey A. Van Dootingh, 403rd Wing commander, who spoke of the tough job he had in replacing the outgoing commander Col. Jay Johnson.

Van Dootingh told the attendees the story of the day that Johnson came to him and told him he was leaving and of course it was in the summer.

“My thought now was oh great, I have to try to replace a maintenance group commander in the middle of what was predicted to be one of the busiest storm seasons, and a couple of months away from a major deployment, and then on top of that a major pandemic,” said Van Dootingh. “So, who in the world was going to raise their hand and volunteer to do that.”

Turning to look at Fortson, Van Dootingh laughing said, “I got this name, so the first thing I did was rushed back to my office and selected Steve Fortson before he changed his mind.”

Van Dootingh went on to talk about Fortson’s career where he started as an enlisted member for almost a decade working in maintenance, then moving into the officer path.

Fortson began his officer career as a logistics officer and he has also completed two tours of duty at Air Force Reserve Command headquarters and had been praised for his ability for taking care of the Airmen in his unit.

After assuming command Fortson spoke about his time at AFRC and how Col. Johnson made sure everyone at command knew what outstanding maintainers were at the 403rd MXG.

He listed four rules that he lives by as a prior maintainer:

1. Do things by the book.

2. Document what you do.

3. Be as safe as you can possibly be.

4. Communicate, communicate, and keep on communicating.

He said that these maintenance 101 rules will ensure that the aircraft are safe and reliable for the operations group use.

“I am also looking forward to working with the other groups within this premier wing, this is a team sport and no one can do this mission without support of the other groups and the host wing,” he said.

With everyone’s determination and hardwork, he plans to continue to develop exceptional Airmen and be ready to respond to every challenge every time.

“My first UTA here in September, we evacuated 16 aircraft and I was just amazed at how everyone performed and then just days ago we sent personnel, equipment, and aircraft out the door for a deployment to Southwest Asia,” said Fortson. “I am humble and proud to be part of this amazing team and your group commander.”