Luke Air Force Base’s top maintainer spent his childhood hopping from location to location as a “Navy brat.” Though he was never quite sure where his family’s travels would take him, he knew where he wanted to land as an adult.
That landing now involves making sure aircraft are ready to fly in the Air Force’s largest F-16 fighter wing.
“The military has always been my way of life,” said Col. Victor Mora, 56th Maintenance Group commander. “Since I got my first ID card when I was 10 until now, I’ve only been without an ID card for about one year.”
Since graduating from high school in San Diego, Mora’s 27-year career has seen him move just as much as he did during childhood. His duty assignments have included laying down roots in seven U.S. states and four foreign countries.
“I’ve learned that home is where I hang my hat,” he said.
It all started as an Airman in the Air Force Reserve. While attending college, Mora enlisted as a jet engine mechanic, rising to the rank of staff sergeant. After five years in the Reserve, he had a decision to make.
“After graduating from college, I wanted to go on active duty, but the recruiter told me that I would have to start all over again as an A1C,” he said. “I didn’t want to take that route, so I applied for Officer Training School and was accepted. I love aircraft maintenance and didn’t want to do anything else. If I could have, I would have put aircraft maintenance on my dream sheet for all three job choices.”
Fortunately for the Air Force, they chose Mora for his preferred career field and the rest is history. That path drew him to Luke in July when he took the reins of the maintenance group.
“My first thoughts when I found out I was coming here were, ‘Wow, they want me to go to Luke?’” he said. “It’s incredible to be selected to lead a group with such a storied history. It’s humbling.”
Mora isn’t starting from scratch in his first group command, though. He and Col. John Hanna, 56th Operations Group commander, worked together in 2006 and 2007 at Hill AFB, Utah, when Mora commanded the 388th Maintenance Operations Squadron and Hanna served as the 4th Fighter Squadron director of operations.
“When I heard I was going to be paired with Face (Hanna) I felt like I hit a homerun,” Mora said. “We start off our group commands together with mutual trust and respect for each other. Many commanders take months learning how to get along. If Face comes over and asks for something, I know he really needs it, so I look at every option to make it happen. On the other hand, if I say I can’t deliver, he doesn’t second-guess me. Our ability to execute our mission is enhanced by our personal and professional relationship.”
Mora has more than just chemistry to bring to his role at Luke; he also has experience leading squadrons in the U.S. and abroad. He’s commanded three squadrons, one of which was an expeditionary maintenance squadron in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later served as a deputy group commander of the 52nd MXG in Germany.
While that experience helps him transition to the next level, he said that mission accomplishment always comes down to the men and women in the back shops and out on the line.
“I’m always amazed at the level of commitment we get from our young maintainers, both officers and enlisted alike. It could be 115 degrees outside, but everybody knows that the mission depends upon them, so they continually hit the line and ‘job out.’”
Mora added that it’s important each Airman knows the role they play and understands why they’re doing what they’re doing.
“We’re here to defend the nation’s interests,” he said. “Each one of us raised his or her right hand and said ‘I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.’ Often we get so caught up in executing our daily mission that we forget the big picture of why we do what we do.”
With that perspective in mind, Mora has a vision of the maintenance group to help his Airmen focus their energy.
“We have a vision of who we are that includes being disciplined Airmen, proud of who we are and driven by a commitment to excellence,” he said. “I ask each Airman to practice the self discipline necessary to get the job done, to take pride in their contributions to not only our wing’s mission but our overall mission of defending the nation and our allies and partners, and finally to constantly strive to produce excellent results.
“If we do these things, our maintainers will get trained properly, our pilots will have safe and reliable aircraft to fly, and we’ll successfully accomplish our mission within current budgetary constraints.”
In closing, Mora said “It’s an incredible honor to serve as the maintenance group commander at Luke; there isn’t a better place to be.”