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First CRO commander says farewell to Air Force

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Col. Vincent Savino, in 2001, became one of the first three combat rescue officers ever and served as commander for the 38th rescue squadron at Moody. After a 23-year career spanning 13 assignments, Colonel Vincent Savino will retire in the local area and embark on a new journey as a senior executive at a major local retail distribution center. (U.S. Air Force illustration/Airman 1st Class Joshua Green)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Col. Vincent Savino, in 2001, became one of the first three combat rescue officers and served as the first commander for the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. After a 23-year career spanning 13 assignments, Colonel Savino will retire in the Moody area as he says good bye to life in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force illustration/Airman 1st Class Joshua Green)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The Air Force's history is full of many firsts, but one officer here holds two of those honors.

Now, after a 23-year career spanning 13 assignments, Col. Vincent Savino is ready to retire.

In 2001, Colonel Savino became one of the first three combat rescue officers in the military. Subsequently, he became the first CRO commander presiding over the 38th Rescue Squadron, which was reactivated the same year.

"It's incredible to see the progress that has been made in the squadron and in the CRO career field in the last nine years," said Colonel Savino. "My time in the Air Force was made great by the many committed enlisted individuals and officers who worked and supported me. I have accomplished so much because of them."

As the first member from his family to join any branch of the military, Colonel Savino's interest to join was inspired by something else. He grew up in New York, proximally to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

"Since I grew up near that academy, I'd always had the idea of joining the military and serving my country," Colonel Savino said. "I was accepted into both West Point and the Air Force Academy, so all I had to do was make up my mind between the two."

He graduated from the Air Force Academy with a bachelor's in management in 1986. Once he got into the Air Force, he had one goal.

"I always wanted to be a squadron commander and lead from the front," said Colonel Savino. "The way it worked out with getting to help standup the 38th RQS was great.

Although 1st Lt. Thomas Smith, one of the three newest CROs at the squadron, has never met Colonel Savino, the two share a theory for success.

"One of the most valuable mindsets to have as a CRO is a deep concern for your men," said the lieutenant. "You have to understand what they need in order to care for them properly."

Colonel Savino expounds on this, saying leaders should be primarily concerned about who they lead.

"It's always been my philosophy that officers shouldn't necessarily worry about their career," he said. "If you take care of your men and women, they'll look out for you and promotions will come."

A former coworker still stationed at the 38th RQS got the chance to work with then-Lt. Col. Savino and speaks about the colonel's influence.

"I have the utmost respect for Colonel Savino as a leader," said Maj. Patrick Gruber, 38th RQS director of operations. "One of the best compliments you can pay a leader is to say that you would work for them again, and I don't know of anybody who wouldn't say that about Colonel Savino.

"We didn't get to work together much when he was the commander, but since then he has been a great example of a CRO," the major added. "Anyone who is in our career field or part of the Guardian Angel weapons system has been able to go to him for direction. His opinion and guidance were and will be highly respected to us furthering the mission of personnel recovery."

In addition to supporting and being supported by his coworkers, Colonel Savino acknowledges the important role his family has played throughout his career.

"My wife, three sons and parents have been very supportive, especially throughout all the moves and hard times," Colonel Savino added. "However, a busy career can sometimes weigh heavily on the family and my retirement will give us the opportunity to settle down and spend more time together.

"Because my wife has followed me around in the Air Force for 17 years, I told her she could pick the place we settle down," he said. "She has done so much as a supporting military spouse, especially during the times I may have been dealing with combat deaths within my squadron."

Colonel Savino will retire in the local area but not all of his family will settle with him; his oldest son is working in construction and his middle son is attending an art and design school.

"All we've got left is the youngest, who is a sophomore in high school this year," he added. "I'm not pushing him to consider the Air Force, but the U.S. Air Force Academy is on his radar as a possibility."

"It's said pretty often, but the Air Force really is like a second family," he added. "I've enjoyed the people and the culture and it has been an honor serving my country."