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  1. Military

New chief calls MacDill 'crown jewel' of Air Force's mobility command

TAILYR IRVINE | Times Lt. Gen. Giovanni Tuck, 18th Air Force Commander, pins Col. April Vogel in recognition of the Legions of Merit Award during the the 6th Air Mobility Wing change of command ceremony at the MacDill Air Force Base on Friday, June 29, 2018 in Tampa.
Published Jun. 29, 2018

TAMPA — Air Force Col. Stephen Snelson, the new leader of the host command at MacDill Air Force Base, called his new assignment a career pinnacle as he took over the 6th Air Mobility Wing at a ceremony Friday.

"MacDill Air Force Base is the crown jewel of Air Mobility Command," said Snelson, who assumed command from Col. April Vogel. "Not just every commander in my shoes, but every airman out there would do whatever they could to come here to MacDill."

Snelson comes to MacDill from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., where he was the vice commander of the 62nd Airlift Wing. He has a master's degree in Aeronautical Science and a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering. He is also a pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours.

For Snelson, MacDill marks quite a change from his previous job, in both aircraft and climate.

The 62nd Airlift Wing flies the C-17 Globemaster III cargo jets. In addition to moving troops and cargo around the world, that wing works with Operation Deep Freeze, providing airlift support for the National Science Foundation's U.S. Antarctic Program.

Instead of overseeing 48 of the huge Globemasters, Snelson will now be in charge of 24 KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling jets, shared with the 927th Air Refueling Wing.

But the biggest change will be the job of base commander, essentially the mayor of a small town with some very important residents.

MacDill is the only base in the continental United States serving as home to two of the major operations known as combatant commands. There are only 10 in the world.

U.S. Central Command, lead by Army Gen. Joseph Votel, oversees the nation's military efforts in the world's most dangerous neighborhood, including much of the Middle East. U.S. Special Operations Command, led by Army Gen. Raymond A. "Tony" Thomas III, is responsible for providing fully trained and equipped commandos to top leaders like Votel.

So Snelson will oversee the wings that refuel nearly all other wings while ensuring that CentCom and SOCom have the goods and services, and often the flights, to operate their headquarters.

Thomas, along with Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, currently CentCom's deputy commander, were among those attending the ceremony, along with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Vogel will continue her career in two roles — assistant adjutant general-air, Maryland Air National Guard, and the Air National Guard advisor to the secretary of the Air Force.

Before passing the ceremonial unit flag, known as a guidon, to her successor, she ticked off some of the wing's accomplishments during her tenure. They flew nearly 8,000 in the KC-135 tankers and C-37 transport jets, offloaded 16 million pounds of fuel on training sorties alone and maintained 60-year-old aircraft that flew 21,000 hours. In addition, the base instituted 88 construction projects, worth more than $200 million. The work helped pave the way for eight additional KC-135s and a new refueling squadron.

"Col. Snelson, brother you hit the jackpot," Vogel said to her successor. "Congratulations on the opportunity to lead this remarkable team."

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman

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