A former vice wing commander from the 192nd Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Va., assumed command of the 162nd Fighter Wing during a ceremony here Nov. 2.
Col. Howard “Phil” Purcell replaced Brig. Gen. Michael “Mick” McGuire, the now adjutant general for the Arizona National Guard who was among more than 800 wing airmen and special guests attending the event.
“It’s a privilege to be named your commander,” said Purcell. “Arizona guardsmen have a distinguished history of service to this nation, and you continue that tradition of excellence today. You have set a standard of accomplishment that you all should be proud of, and I certainly am.”
Honoring time-tested, military protocol, Brig. Gen. Edward Maxwell, Commander of the Arizona Air National Guard, passed the organizational flag to Purcell, sealing his command position at the nation’s largest F-16 training unit.
“Colonel Purcell should be very proud of what he is about to embark on,” said Maxwell. “Not only is he becoming a commander, but he is also becoming an ambassador as this organization has a large impact worldwide.”
Maxwell added that although the new wing commander was on track for prominent leadership roles in Virginia, Purcell opted for the opportunity to lead guardsmen in southern Arizona.
“I asked him why he wanted this job and his answer was simple: ‘I want to serve – in mission – with the airmen,’” said Maxwell.
In remarks to his new unit, Purcell honored his family unit, including his father and step-father who served in the Air Force and Navy, respectively.
“I lost my dad in Southeast Asia right before I was born. (But) I have built a vision of him from the stories my family told me that has become an irreplaceable compass in my life,” Purcell said. “And when my mom remarried, my second dad taught me the satisfaction of hard work and the importance of family.”
Lt. Col. Kenneth R. Rosson, wing vice commander, said Purcell’s “highly successful military background and dedication to serve” will translate well into facing the new challenges of “solidifying our manpower and protecting the mission we currently execute, all the while working within budgetary constraints.”
“The desert is going to be different than the greenery of Virginia, but it’s a perfect fit for me and I look forward to getting started,” Purcell said.
A combat veteran of Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom with more than 3,000 flying hours in the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor, Purcell arrived in Tucson the day before his assumption of command, ready to enhance and improve upon the elements that make up today’s Air Guard.
“I ask now that we continue to focus on mission and people. We can’t do the first without taking care of the second,” he said. “So work hard, play hard and be accountable. Be loyal, up and down the chain, value our differences of opinion that can make for better decisions and never walk past a mistake, especially your own.”