Col. Thomas P. Sherman is scheduled to relinquish command of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base June 12 during a private ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force presided over by Lt. Gen. Robert D. McMurry Jr., commander of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. Sherman assumed command June 19, 2018.
The Skywrighter recently sat down with Sherman to learn of his proudest moments, noteworthy tasks as commander and parting thoughts as he becomes principal military assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.
What do you consider your greatest achievement, and the wing’s greatest achievement, during your command?
Sherman: I think it’s things we collectively did together at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I think we created a unique culture in the 88th Air Base Wing that brought a sense of pride – pride in the mission and the job being done here. We, as this amazing air base wing, developed and have a family concept, sense of pride and identity in what we do here. It is huge. We truly made the linkage and identify the wing we are so proud to serve in as supporting Air Force strategic missions. The 88 ABW is the supporting organization for this 100,000-person “city” and the amazing missions it does for the Air Force. It is very, very important. Truly on its shoulders rests the mission of Wright-Patterson. We aligned ourselves and grew.
This has not been a quiet two years. It has been situation after situation, challenge after challenge, but the men and the women of the 88th were unfazed, tackling things in a phenomenal way.
Who and what was key to your success?
Sherman: Our people are the key to our success. The wing’s makeup includes incredible expertise and wisdom from people who have been here for decades to new Airmen just coming out of technical school. Our people are the alpha and omega of what our Air Force is; they are housed right here within the 88 ABW.
I must also take a moment to say this: My wife Laurie has been phenomenal. She is a wonderful woman who loved this as much as I did. She loved being a part of this community. That love allowed both of us to completely commit ourselves. On a very personal level, what allowed me to be successful here were her love and support.
Also, Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Arbona, 88 ABW command chief, and I go back 14 years. To have somebody with that longevity and who is so passionate about what he does, that exudes throughout everything he does in the wing. From Day One, it began; that relationship was set and we started running. From command staff to the team who supported us, it’s been an amazing run.
What has been the greatest challenge during command?
Sherman: We collectively have had to face unprecedented events – things that despite all planning and preparation, these situations made us almost have to act in the crisis or emergency of the moment. We are facing or have faced a global pandemic all the way to within the first few weeks I was here, an active shooter situation, watching our people receive people who have had their homes destroyed by tornadoes, watching people here impacted by the Dayton shootings in the Oregon District.
We watched people rally around each other so that sense of Dayton Strong ran all the way through Wright-Patterson as well. When you look at the greatest challenges, it comes down to how do you manage the unforeseen and the unexpected? Our folks did marvelously in each of these situations that would arise. They did an amazing job in dealing with it, and then went on to make things better.
How would you like to be remembered by the community?
Sherman: For both Laurie and me – and I hate saying farewells – but it’s the emotional ties that you make with people, this sense of belonging and being a part of them. I hope people remember how much we loved this and how much we cared about the base and the community, how we gave every ounce of ourselves to this treasure and how much sincerity and love we put into everything we did for Wright-Patterson and the community that surrounds us.
If you could describe your tenure in a word or two, what would it be?
Sherman: It’s courage. Courage comes in so many forms, not just dealing with an event on the battlefield or a crisis of the moment but having fortitude and the desire to make things better. Courage is doing the right thing. Courage is having respect and love for the others you interact with. Courage is realizing to grow you have to change. Courage is being able to stand up and say, “We as a team can complete this” and go do it. Courage is looking at difficult and emotional things and having the ability to wrap your arms around them to help people through tough moments and help them excel to their greatest heights. Courage is having the ability to unburden people from constraints they believed they had so they could achieve.
I like the word courage because it covers so much. It’s what we saw exhibited by the men and women of the 88 ABW in some way, shape or form every day we were here.
What have you shared with (incoming 88 ABW commander) Col. Miller about the 88 ABW, Wright-Patterson AFB and the Miami Valley?
Sherman: We have spoken numerous times and shared a lot of emails, but the underlying theme is that he is going to absolutely love this wing and this community. Wright-Patterson is a treasure. We have shared details on projects, etc., but I wanted to share with him from the get-go how fortunate he is and how excited Laurie and I are for him and his wife, Beth, that they get to experience this treasure that we’ve had the chance to be a part of the last two years. It’s the emotional aspect and intangible piece that make this wing and community so important. That’s what I want to tell him.
The men and women of the wing are going to showcase the mission, but we wanted to lay the foundation of the emotional aspect so they see what a gem they are coming into.
How important is the relationship with the outside community in the Miami Valley?
Sherman: It is key to our success. The base is the community and the community is the base. I’ve been saying that since my change of command. Now, looking two years in the rearview mirror, that statement is more poignant now than I observed initially. You hear throughout the Air Force how tied the community is to Wright-Patterson. It is known. You can’t get a true sense of it until you have had the opportunity to feel it.
Now, having felt that and lived it for two years, it is almost an understatement as to how vital and amazing the community is. They welcomed us with open arms, they treated us like we were a part of their own communities, we felt welcomed in every environment we went into. When we dealt with struggles, the community said, “How can we help?” It’s the character of the area. That connection is vital and so important, and it is amazingly appreciated.
What will you and Laurie miss about Wright-Patterson AFB?
Sherman: I think everything, from living in the Bricks, to seeing our neighbors to getting a chance to come into work and being around the base and watching people be amazing and perform their craft. We’re going to miss all the events, from graduations and promotions to events at our phenomenal museum, plus programs like Hometown Heroes, and Mayors and Managers. We are going to miss how absolutely happy we were here.
What is next for you and Laurie?
Sherman: We are heading to the Washington, D.C., area as I have been selected to serve as the principal military assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon. I am tremendously excited. A joy of the military is that as you have an opportunity to embrace and bid farewell to the people you cared so much about, there is another amazing opportunity that lays ahead of you – adventures yet to be seen. What an amazing opportunity to have a front-row seat to the defense of our country!
Any final thoughts or words for the community?
Sherman: I want to make sure everybody knows how much they impacted us and how much our time spent with them will be etched onto our souls. This job was the dream of a lifetime. To get to share it with them only made it that much sweeter. Thank you, everyone.
88th Air Base Wing change of command
Col. Thomas P. Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, will relinquish command of the 88th ABW to Col. Patrick G. Miller in a private change of command ceremony June 12 at 10 a.m. at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Sherman has been selected to become the principal military assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.
Miller is currently the vice commander of the Air Force Installation & Mission Support Center, Air Force Materiel Command, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
The event will be live-streamed on the Wright-Patterson Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wpafb.
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