Nomad 1 reflects on past, looks ahead at future

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Bryan Franks
  • 33d Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The Nomads began a new era in January when Col. Todd Harmer took his driver seat position to lead the 33d Fighter Wing from an air superiority wing to the future training wing of the Air Force's next generation multi-role fighter - the F-35 Lightning II.

The native of Russell, New York, took command of the 33d Fighter Wing on Jan. 4. Having served nearly 22 years in the Air Force he was excited about the chance of commanding his own wing.

"Hey, pinch me. I am dreaming here," he said. "It's an incredible honor to be selected for command. I think command, first and foremost, represents what military service is all about. When you get the opportunity to command, it doesn't matter where it's at or if it's a squadron of angry Boy Scouts with pen knives. You're happy to command."

This reality wasn't Colonel Harmer's original plan when he was a young boy watching Neal Armstrong make history as the first man to walk on the moon.

"I thought that was pretty cool and I wanted to do that someday," he said.

Of course he found out later that in order to be an astronaut he needed to join the Air Force and become a test pilot.

"Once I received my engineering degree from the Air Force Academy and became a fighter pilot, I realized that combat operations were cooler than being a test pilot and an astronaut," the newly trained F-15 pilot said.

With the 33d FW transitioning from Air Combat Command to Air Education and Training Command in the next 18 months, Colonel Harmer has already dealt with change since he arrived. The former Falcon driver spent his entire career in the F-16.

"I haven't admitted this to too many people, but my first choice out of pilot training was the F-15," he said. "I think I'm the poster child for persistence. It took me twenty years to get what I wanted out of pilot training. Not only able to fly the world's greatest air superiority fighter, but to command the Nomads as well, is an honor and a privilege."

Colonel Harmer said that he's impressed with the quality of people and the working relationship that the Nomads share with one another.

"The wing is more of a family," he said. "The working relationship between maintenance and operations is the best I've seen in the Air Force."

The wing is in for a challenge as the Nomads pave the way for the F-35 Lightning II. Drawing down the F-15 and personnel at the same time will be hard on the Airmen. For Colonel Harmer, managing expectations will be key for a successful transition.

"We (people) are resistant to change," he said. "There are people here who will have to leave Eglin before they want to, but we'll make sure there is good plan for the draw down, that the plan is communicated and we can react to any problems with the plan."

While taking care of Airmen is a top priority for Colonel Harmer, preparing them to be the future leaders of the Air Force is also important.

"I believe leadership is more about mentorship," he said. "One of my jobs is to mentor those who work for me because there comes a time when somebody will replace me and shame on me if I don't have them trained."

While the Nomads prepare for the new patch the wing will wear, maintaining the mission the 33d FW is charged with now, is still of the utmost importance.

"We still have a combat mission and my number one goal is for Airmen to stay focused and provide the best air control and air superiority in the Air Force," Colonel Harmer said. "I want us to Finish Strong."