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His mission complete, 'The Boss' prepares for next role at ACC

Col. Joe Callahan is the outgoing commander of the 23rd Wing, Moody Air Force Base, Ga. He will be passing command to Col. Kenn Todorov in a ceremony May 11.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres)

Col. Joe Callahan is the outgoing commander of the 23rd Wing, Moody Air Force Base, Ga. He will be passing command to Col. Kenn Todorov in a ceremony May 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Col. Joe Callahan will end his two-year tenure as the commander of the 23rd Wing May 11, when he hands the controls over to his current vice wing commander Col. Kenn Todorov and looks forward to his new role as Air Combat Command's deputy director of air and space operations.

During his time here, he led the nation's premier combat search and rescue wing as it has grown, evolved and proven itself, again and again, said Colonel Callahan.

"I am most proud of the wing's response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," he said. "It was incredible how quickly the entire wing pulled together into one location and operated as a successful team to rescue more than 4,300 people from the flooding waters of the gulf.

"In addition to this, we were still able to maintain an incredibly difficult ops tempo for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," he added. "This wing has maintained its war readiness for nearly six years straight. The fact we have been able to carry out these missions successfully says a lot about the professionalism of the wing."

The challenges Colonel Callahan faced were unlike those seen by most other Air Force wings. With 6,200 Flying Tigers spread over five states, the commander said he quickly learned the importance of delegating and having an inner staff that can efficiently work at keeping the wing functioning.

"I ended up doing a lot of travel out of this position," said the colonel. "There were many weeks I wasn't at Moody, but the wing and the base still pressed ahead. This was due to my vice wing commander, my engine room and people like my secretary Ms. Virginia; they kept the wing functioning.

"I realized how important it was to select the right people for those key positions," he continued. "It might just be a staff sergeant, but it's a dang important staff sergeant when the functions of an entire wing are based upon one person doing their job. There are a lot of folks and moving parts out there, and it's a team effort to make this wing function smoothly."

With so many irons in the fire and only so much time to forge his wing's tools, the colonel said it's a fact of the job he wasn't able to get everything done he had hoped to. There are always going to be things for the incoming commander to finish.

"I would have liked to have been 'in the seat' when the first housing phase was completed," said the commander. "When I first arrived here I was told I should probably expect to be moving in a year. Of course, three years later, I am still in the same house, but that project will eventually be completed and those homes will be there for many years to come.

"I was also very close to seeing the Consolidated Base Support Center through to completion," he added. "I was here when we first got the funding for it. I walked it through the design and the layout as it grew and shrank in scope, almost to the finish line of the ribbon cutting as the wing commander. It's going to be an amazing facility for Team Moody and I hope to be back for the opening ceremony in June."

As the 23rd Wing continues to grow and change, Colonel Callahan expects its role in the Air Force will change as well.

"I fully expect the Flying Tigers will be reorganized again in the next year or so," said the colonel. "In upcoming years we may lose some of the missions of the wing, and other missions may be added to the base, or to the wing itself. Moody is going to go through further changes in the future, I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind on that.

As his time at Moody ends, Colonel Callahan said he has probably had as much fun as he is ever going to be allowed to have as a commander.

"I have enjoyed my tour," said the outgoing commander. "As a CSAR officer, you can't really get a better assignment than commanding this wing. I'm pretty sure this is going to be the last command I'll have in the Air Force.

"I'm not sure what the future holds for me," he added. "But, I will always look back proudly that I was asked to lead this dedicated team of men and women as it proved time and again how it truly is the world's premier CSAR unit."