The 37th Training Wing change of command was July 24. Brig. Gen. Len Patrick relinquished command of the 37th TRW to Col. William H. Mott V. General Patrick assumes command of the new 502nd Air Base Wing July 31. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell)
LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas —
As he scanned the parade grounds filled with graduating Airmen and stands full of proud parents and families, Brig. Gen. Len Patrick, 37th Training Wing commander for the past 18 months, looked back at his tenure with a sense of accomplishment.
On July 24, General Patrick relinquished command of the 37th TRW to Col. William H. Mott V, who arrives here after commanding the 325th Operations Group, 325th Fighter Wing, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
General Patrick leaves Lackland, summing up his assignment with one word: "pride - pride in the men and women of the 37th Training Wing."
While no longer commander of the 37th TRW, General Patrick will remain involved with Team Lackland when he assumes command of the 502nd Air Base Wing. The unit activates July 31 and will be headquartered at Fort Sam Houston. When the 502nd becomes fully operational, it will oversee installation support functions of Lackland and Randolph AFBs, and at Fort Sam Houston, as Joint Base San Antonio.
"I'm excited about it," said the general, who along with his wife, Lynne, has already moved into living quarters at Fort Sam. "Since I'm the first commander, I get a chance to help shape the future of the military in San Antonio. We'll have the resources, the people and the money to do the job we need to support the missions at Fort Sam and Camp Bullis, Lackland, and Randolph."
Familiarity with local bases will be a plus in his new assignment. General Patrick has the unique perspective of understanding first-hand what it's like to be at the bases that form Joint Base San Antonio. Having lived and worked at Lackland and Randolph, and now adding Fort Sam, he completes the trifecta.
General Patrick was enthusiastic as he looked back on his time at Lackland.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," he said. "Twenty-eight years ago, when I graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy, if you had said I could have the opportunity to lead a great wing like the 37th Training Wing, I would have thought you were talking about someone else.
"Between Lynne and I, we feel we've managed to put a lot of ourselves into Team Lackland and the 37th Training Wing. But also, we've been very well rewarded for it because our lives have been enriched by what we have learned, seen and done at Lackland."
As he recalls taking command on Jan. 25, 2008, General Patrick remembers the feelings that overtook him during that change of command ceremony.
"I was sitting with General Gould (Lt. Gen. Michael C. Gould, former 2nd Air Force commander) and General Jones (Maj. Gen. Darrell Jones, General Patrick's predecessor) in the front seats of the parade," he said. "I had been to parades before but I hadn't sat that close to the reviewing stands. The enormity of the wing and its mission didn't hit me until we finished the change of command. I was in awe.
"General Gould invited General Jones to be the reviewing official, and I saw how polished he was. Seeing all the parents in the stands and the looks on the young Airmen's faces as they were saying the oath, ready to graduate from basic training, that's when I knew this would be the best job I'd ever have in the Air Force."
And his feelings today, a year and a half later, remain unchanged. "Not many Air Force officers are fortunate enough to get one wing command, let alone two, but I will always remember this one."
Reflecting back, General Patrick said one of the greatest challenges was expanding basic military training from 6.5 weeks to 8.5 weeks. He credited everyone associated with BMT in rising up to meet that particular challenge, starting on schedule and making very few changes since implementing the curriculum.
"A testament to their hard work and dedication," General Patrick added.
Saying there were too many memorable moments to single out just one, he did recall former President George W. Bush's visit and watching the reaction on the faces of the Airmen as the President shook hands with them.
Other memorable occasions include meeting family members of graduating Airmen as they said, "What did you do to my daughter or my son? That's not the same boy I sent you."
The general typically responded with, "Yes it is! We gave them a sense of teamwork by being a wingman, we instilled core values, and gave them something to believe in other than just themselves."
"When people think of Lackland they think of two things - BMT and Wilford Hall," he said. "I am so proud of the men and women who mold citizens in to extraordinary Airmen, nobody does it better in the world, period. And the docs at the 59th Medical Wing are the world's best at saving lives not only here in San Antonio but in Iraq."
But anyone stationed at Lackland soon realizes how much the base mission encompasses, he said. Such as the Inter-American Air Force Academy that teaches our Latin American partners how to do their jobs - in Spanish, the one of a kind Defense Language Institute English Language Center that not only teaches English but about American culture, the technical training group that awards 31 separate specialties, the medical group that has over 190,000 beneficiaries, and the largest mission support group in the Air Force.
"When I got here a year ago January, I wanted to focus on the Airmen and civilians who accomplish the mission because I knew if I focused on them, they would get the job done" he said.
"It was an honor and a privilege to have served as the commander of the 37th Training Wing," he said, "We are the Gateway Wing ... the long blue line starts here. And I am still in awe of what the 37th Training Wing does."