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Wing commander bids farewell to the Nomads and the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Heather Leveille
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

Col. Jon S. Wheeler, 33rd Fighter Wing commander, will relinquish command July 30, 2021 and will retire after serving 25 years in the Air Force.

Wheeler received his commission from the United States Air Force Academy in 1996, attended undergraduate pilot training at Vance Air Force Base, and went on to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon before transitioning to the F-35A Lightning II.

Wheeler became a Nomad in 2010 as 1 of 10 fighter pilots Air Force-wide chosen to serve as the initial F-35 instructor pilot cadre at Eglin AFB. In 2019, he returned to take command of the 33rd FW.

“There’s a small town atmosphere at this wing,” said Wheeler. “Everyone looks out for one another, and it helps us get through the tough times.”

Throughout his time here, Wheeler navigated the wing through aircraft mishaps, a global pandemic, civil unrest, and many other unforeseen challenges. Although there were hard times, Wheeler found several moments of victory by always keeping the people and mission at the forefront. He saw feats during his two-year tenure by leading the wing to stand up a second fighter squadron, jumpstarting a rated diversity improvement program, and overseeing the training of 111 pilots, 460 air battle managers, 245 intelligence professionals, and hosting F-35 A/B/C maintenance training for 3,705 Air Force, Marine, and Navy maintainers.

“The most rewarding part of being the commander here is the ability to be hands off  day-to-day operations because of the complete trust I have in the leadership to get the mission done, which allows me to focus on bigger picture tasks and advocate for the members of the 33rd FW,” said Wheeler.

The 33rd FW is organized under Air Education and Training Command and focuses its efforts on training the next generation of Airmen to prepare them for their future in the Combat Air Forces.

The Nomads participated in Exercise Northern Lighting in 2019, a large-scale joint exercise, and Exercise Savannah Shift in 2020, an integrated air-to-air exercise.

“My favorite moments were watching a wing that is not used to deploying, actually getting the chance to have temporary duty assignments and getting to see the strengthening of bonds between the various teams that go out there to get the mission done,” said Wheeler. “It’s a whole other level getting out and working offsite together.”

Wheeler had nothing but words of gratitude and appreciation for the people he worked with throughout his service at the 33rd FW.

“I enjoyed every time I got to go out and interact with the Airmen across the wing and recognize their hard work,” said Wheeler. “It was particularly special when outside guests and leaders would come out and acknowledge the outstanding Airmen we have here.”

Wheeler has not yet figured out how, but he plans to continue serving the nation using the skills he has acquired over the past 25 years of his service.

“I just know I’m not done serving my country,” said Wheeler. “My number one consideration right now is my family. I want to be able to see all of my kids' events and support them as they have supported me throughout my career.”

Now that the chapter of active duty service in the Air Force is coming to a close for Wheeler, he is overwhelmed with emotions of nostalgia and fond memories of his service to his country.

As his last piece of advice to the Nomads, Wheeler expressed, “Attitude is everything. You can look at any situation and find the worst of it or the best of it. You determine your own fate, so make the most of it.”