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NEWS | April 24, 2014

Shirley takes command of 361 ISRG

By Wayne Amann Air Force ISR Agency Public Affairs

The latest chapter in the legacy of the 361st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group began April 10 when Lt. Col. John Shirley assumed command of the organization from Col. Michael Stevenson during the group's change-of-command ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Shirley, who was instrumental in standing up the 361 ISRG in 2008, now leads the only Air Force ISR Agency group that directly supports Air Force Special Operations Command by training and equipping direct support operators and tactical systems operators, who fly as qualified aircrew members aboard AFSOC aircraft.

"John's sterling reputation precedes him," said Maj. Gen. John Shanahan, Air Force ISR Agency commander and change-of-command officiating officer. "During the group command hiring process I fielded several phone calls and emails from people at all levels I trust explicitly. Every one raved about John's leadership qualities, operational expertise and experience. It made my decision simple. He was the only natural choice for this command."

Shirley's noteworthy ISR background includes assignments as a planning officer for the specialized Senior Scout C-130 aircraft; chief of airborne operations in the largest flying squadron in the Air Force; operations officer of an expeditionary reconnaissance squadron flying combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan; and a program element monitor for the RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft.

His most recognized assignment came as commander of the 25th Intelligence Squadron at Hurlburt. Under his leadership the unit won the 2009 and 2010 Air Force ISR Agency Squadron of the Year, the 2010 Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor and the 2010 National Security Agency Director's Trophy.

Prior to assuming command of the 361st, Shirley was the chief of the operational requirements branch within headquarters, United States Central Command Intelligence Operations Division.

"This was a crucial position within a command engaged in combat operations an awfully long time, and ISR is at the heart of everything that happens in those operations," Shanahan said.

Shirley, a 1992 graduate of East Carolina University, Greenville, N. C., now leads the unit which began as the 11th Photographic Group (Mapping) Nov. 19, 1943. The group's early missions included the photographic mapping of the U. S. and sending detachments to the China-Burma-India Theater, the Near and Middle East, Mexico, Canada, Alaska and the Caribbean to conduct similar missions. It was officially disbanded Oct. 5, 1944.

The Air Force re-established and re-designated the 11th PG as the 361st Tactical Intelligence Group July 31, 1985, but the unit was never activated. That allowed the 361st TIS to be re-established and re-designated the 361st ISR Group Oct. 10, 2008.
Nineteen days later the Air Force ISR Agency activated the group at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The new group, under AFSOC operational control, took command of the 19th IS at Pope, Air Force Base, N. C., and the 25th IS at Hurlburt.

The 361st is a selectively-manned and uniquely tasked unit, providing specialized ISR across the spectrum of operations from conflict through humanitarian relief, and is heavily tasked around the world.

It's a responsibility Shirley, selected for promotion to colonel, embraced when he addressed his new command.

"You are here because you are the best and brightest America and the Air Force has to offer," he said. "You've earned the trust of our special operations forces mission partners and together we make the right decisions that keep friendlies safe while capturing or killing our enemies. America needs you now more than ever and you will continue to bring a razor-edge competence in each of your individual skill sets. Together we will succeed!"