Benson assumes command of 403rd Wing

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kristen Pittman
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

Col. John F. Benson took command of the Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing in a change of command ceremony at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Nov. 2.

Brig. Gen. Melissa Coburn, 22nd Air Force commanding general, presided over the ceremony and Col. Stuart M. Rubio, 22nd AF Director of Operations, Plans, and Requirements, relinquished command.

The 403rd Wing is a C-130J-equipped unit and employs approximately 1,500 reservists and civil servants. Its mission is to train, equip, and deploy airlift forces in support of the nation’s interests. This includes the only aerial weather reconnaissance mission in the Department of Defense as well as tactical airlift and airdrop, aeromedical evacuation, and agile combat support.

Coburn initiated the proceedings by first recognizing Rubio for his tenure as commander of the 403rd Wing and the seven total years he spent in command within the unit at squadron, group, and wing levels.  She also presented him with a Legion of Merit medal for his accomplishments.

She then introduced Benson and his family and highlighted his career achievements so far.

Benson earned his commission upon graduation from the Air Force Academy in 2000 and served 12 years on Active Duty before transitioning to the Air Force Reserve in 2012. The command pilot has logged over 4,400 hours in tanker airlift aircraft, including more than 1,450 combat hours, and has flown missions in support of Operations Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom. He most recently served as commander of the 954th Reserve Support Squadron at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

The three officers conducted the ceremonial passing of the 403rd Wing guidon to signify the changing of command, and Benson addressed his new unit, first thanking the organizers of the event and distinguished guests before outlining his priorities.

His first priority is to provide ready warfighters.

“We’re going to keep the main thing the main thing, and when a geographic combatant commander needs help, they’re going to know that the ‘Wing of Choice’ is the wing of choice,” he said. “You’ve consistently demonstrated that, and you’ll continue to demonstrate that, I have no doubt.”

His second priority focuses on supporting deployers and their families, stating that nothing happens without family support, and recognizing that they are a crucial component when it comes to resiliency and readiness.

“Finally, we’re going to recruit the best,” said Benson.

He referred to Rubio’s Legion of Merit medal citation that noted a 92% effective manning rating during his three years and vowed to continue the 403rd’s track record of bringing in quality Reserve Citizen Airmen and civilians.

Rubio addressed the new commander and the members of his home unit of seven years for a final time.

“It’s with more pride than I can communicate with words that I pass this guidon on to Colonel Benson,” he said. “It’s an exciting time to be in the Air Force with challenges and changes both on the horizon and right in front of our faces, but it’s an especially exciting time to be here in the 403rd Wing.”

He assured Benson that the Airmen he would be leading hold deep pride in the diverse missions they have been tasked to accomplish.

“It’s an honor and privilege to not only be among warfighters but to lead them,” Benson said in closing. “Thank you for taking the time to be here on this special day, I appreciate you, and as General (Michael) Minihan, (Air Mobility Command commander) says, ‘Let’s Go!’”