Wright-Patt’s world-traveling flying unit gains new leader

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Col. Adam Willis addresses Air Force reservists with the 445th Airlift Wing after he assumed command of the Wright-Patterson AFB unit.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A veteran cargo pilot became the newest leader Sunday of the last remaining flying unit at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Col. Adam B. Willis, the new commander of the 445th Airlift Wing, inherited the busiest C-17 wing in the Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard, officials said.

Willis replaced outgoing commander, Col. Jeffrey J. McGalliard, who will retire after a 30-year Air Force career and return to United Airlines as a commercial pilot.

In a cavernous aircraft hangar, Willis assumed command on a stage draped under a giant American flag in a ceremony at Wright-Patterson. Hundreds of uniformed reservists of the more than 2,000-member wing stood in formation while a six-member Air Force band played ceremonial ruffles and flourishes.

For Willis, it’s return to a leadership role he most recently had at the 908th Airlift Wing, a reserve unit of more than 1,200 reservists and eight C-130 Hercules cargo planes at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.

“…I look forward to working with the (445th Airlift Wing) and again being taught by some of the greatest experts out there,” the 52-year-old reservist, who calls Arizona his home state, said in an interview.

A common sight in the skies above the Dayton region, nine C-17 Globemaster III cargo jets stationed with the 445th Airlift Wing routinely fly missions around the world.

The unit flew more than 1,400 sorties the past year, flying more missions and hours than any other C-17 unit in reserve or Air National Guard squadrons, according to McGalliard and the Air Force.

The jet transport wing flies weekly aeromedical evacuation and troop and cargo flights primarily “downrange,” McGalliard said. The reservists, most of whom serve part-time, continue to carry wounded service members out of Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

“We’re still in that business,” he said. “…We still put cargo in there every week as well, and bring cargo out. Whatever the tasking is, these guys generate the sorties and we put a crew on it and they go and do it. Every week after week.”

One crew recently evacuated a family injured in a Brussels, Belgium terrorist bombing in March, he said.

A 53-year-old Indiana native, McGalliard will move to Michigan. He was commander of the 445th Airlift Wing since November 2013.