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380AEW Article

Two colonels reflect on multiple ADAB deployments

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jocelyn A. Ford
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing / Public Affairs

Two commanders, with more than 54 years of dedicated service combined, find themselves at Al Dhafra Air Base telling their story.

Both Col. George Wilson, 380th Expeditionary Operations Group commander, and Col. James Clavenna, 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Group commander, are coming to the end of their current deployment.

Two commanders, dedicated to the mission of ADAB, will be changing command in the next two months. They reflect on not only the last 10-12 months, but also on previous trips. Wilson first deployed to ADAB in 2009 as the director of operations for the E-3 AWACS squadron. Since then he has returned as the squadron commander in both 2010 and 2011, and most recently in 2018 for a yearlong group commander’s billet.

Of course, not all deployments are 365-day tours. Crews’ deployments have changed and varied from four to six months over the years, but the one-year commander billet was established to give some stability for the group and the wing.

Clavenna is also a returnee to ADAB, first serving as a squadron commander in 2008.

“This is my second time here,” said Clavenna. “I asked to come here personally because I like the mission here, I like the culture and the team, and I like what we do and the mission we provide.”

Clavenna went on to boast about the teamwork and close-knit community across ADAB as a whole being just as he remembered more than 10 years ago.

Teamwork is essential when it comes the mission, especially for an installation that contributes to all five of the Air Force’s core missions.

“If you’re part of that, you can’t help but learn something else, about somebody else’s business,” said Clavenna. “No matter what career field we’re in, we’re all observing others and learning their craft, and I think we can understand what the overall Air Force is doing.”

“No matter where you work on this base, you are supporting combat operations,” Wilson said. “Every day you are supporting the warfighter on the ground.”

There have been a lot of changes to the base as a whole, such as upgrades to the Base Exchange, fitness center and the USO presence. Overall there is more brick and mortar than before, and more to come.

“When you build brick and mortar facilities, the accommodations get better and utilities are more reliable,” said Clavenna. He also predicts that ADAB will continue moving toward longer-term infrastructure.

Wilson has similar predictions, commenting on future developments and the relationship with the host nation.

“I think we’re here long-term,” Wilson continued. “The interoperability between our equipment and our personnel [with the Emiratis] is the best it’s ever been, so I just see it getting better and stronger.”

Referencing their time here as squadron commanders, both commanders acknowledged their position has changed from a narrow focus to the broader spectrum.

“Last time my main focus was on E3 operations and making sure we were ready to support the Combined Forces Air Component Commander,” said Wilson.

“Now my job is to make sure my squadron commanders have the guidance, access and resources they need to execute their mission. I’m concerned about all the assets and all the mission sets and how they are able to support the CFACC.”

Not only is the mission focus broader, but the leadership responsibility also grows. Group commanders are directly involved with shaping squadron commanders and advising them to do the same with junior officers.

“The older I get in the Air Force the role of growing, teaching and developing replacements has become a lot more of what I do.,” said Clavenna.

As frequent flyers to ADAB, both may be a little sad to go, but ready to return home to their families.

“I’m going to miss this team, the Airmen we work with and the mission they produce. I won’t miss being away from my family,” said Clavenna. “But I would do it all over again. I would come back in a year.”