MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

June 22, 2014

Pilot training unit at Vance gets new commander

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE — “A fighter pilot’s fighter pilot” has taken command of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base.

Col. Clark J. Quinn became the 36th commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing after accepting the wing guidon, or banner, from Gen. Robin Rand, the commander of Air Education and Training Command.

Quinn takes over from Col. Darren V. James, who has been wing commander at Vance since June 2012. Quinn is a combat veteran with more than 2,500 flying hours in the F-15, F-16 and T-38. He has flown missions over Iraq and Libya.

“Wow, I know I’m getting way old for this business when one of my former captain IPs (instructor pilots) that I flew with when I was a colonel and wing commander, is about to take a wing command guidon   from me,” Rand said.

“The 71st Flying Training Wing is fortunate to have him as their next wing commander.”

Quinn served under Rand as an instructor pilot when Rand commanded the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.

“He knows the mission of delivering combat air power,” Rand said of Quinn. “In fact, he has a college degree in warfighting and he has been tested under fire. He was a key player in the downfall of the Moammar Gadhafi regime in Libya.”

Quinn has the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with five oak leaf clusters and the Air Medal.

“I am truly humbled and honored to stand in front of you today,” Quinn said at his recent transfer of command ceremony at the Enid base. “As we execute the daily mission, I ask you to never lose sight of the bigger picture of these young men and women we are training here. Within a year some of them will be flying combat sorties, and within 10 or 15 they will be dominating skies and protecting the rest of us as we are enjoying our retirements.”

Quinn earned his wings at Laughlin AFB in Texas in 1999.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be here,” he said. “I’m excited and looking forward to it. My first impressions of Enid are that it is a tremendously supportive community to the military. First impressions of Vance, everybody is tremendously supportive, a very welcoming community both on the base and off. And they are obviously doing an extremely good job with the mission.”

Quinn takes command at Vance at a challenging time for the Air Force, with the war in Afghanistan near an end and budget pressures from Washington.

“We’re not anticipating any significant changes in pilot training over the next couple of years,” Quinn said. “The numbers may fluctuate a little bit, 5 or 10 percent up or down, most likely down, but no significant changes.”

He acknowledged there is budget uncertainty facing all of the armed services, but said, “However, I know that our bosses and leadership, if they’re going to ask us to do the mission, they’re going to fund us enough to get the mission done.”

Jeff Mullin writes for the Enid News & Eagle.

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