Col. Jeremy Sloane, who last month took over as the new vice wing commander at Luke Air Force Base, has always been a high achiever.
As a basketball star at Federal Way High School, Wash., he set the all-time school record for points scored. Two players have since broken that record, and both went on to play in the NBA. His senior year, Sloane shot nearly 65 percent from beyond the arc – in the first year Washington adopted the 3-point line at the high school level – and led the Eagles to the state tournament. He was named second-team all-state.
Passing up other scholarship offers, Sloane earned an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Not coming from a military family, the transition was especially challenging, he said. He credits his father, Doug – an assistant basketball coach at Sloane’s high school – with giving him the encouragement to stick it out.
“My dad told me, ‘you can always quit tomorrow. Stick it out, because you won’t get this opportunity again.’ I started doing that on a day-to-day basis, and started thinking ‘I’m going to finish what I started here,’” Sloane said.
“I think that was a turning point in making me who I am in the military,” he said. “I said to myself, I’m going to stick with a problem and I’m going to figure out how I can solve it. After a period of time, you go, OK, this is me. This is something that’s important, and I don’t have to like every minute of it to realize how valuable it is.”
After four years, he left with a degree in engineering and orders for undergraduate pilot training at Columbus AFB, Miss. After a year of flying training aircraft, he headed to Luke for F-16 training, where he learned to fly the viper.
His first operational assignment was to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, where he was chief of plans and F-16 flight lead at the 23rd Fighter Squadron. While there, he deployed in support of Operations Northern and Southern Watch in Iraq. Then in the spring of 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization launched Operation Allied Force in response to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s campaign of ethnic cleansing, and Sloane was called on to fly combat missions over Kosovo and Serbia.
“Four months of flying night missions out of Aviano into Serbia was definitely a highlight,” Sloane said. “The stakes were very high, and the threats we went up against were significant. The operation was extremely professional, and I was very proud to be part of that.”
Sloane’s role was to provide suppression of enemy air defenses, or “SEAD” in the parlance of the viper drivers. During the operation, two allied planes were shot down, and he was personally involved in the night rescue of a downed F-117 pilot.
From Europe, Sloane headed back to Luke for four years as an instructor pilot, where he served in leadership positions with the 308th and 62nd fighter squadrons as well as the 56th Operations Support Squadron.
In 2004, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds selected Sloane to join their elite ranks. From 2004 to 2007, he flew the red, white and blue No. 7 jet as the team’s operations officer.
“That was an amazing experience because you get the chance to serve with people who are at the top of their career fields across nearly 30 Air Force specialties,” he said. “We take some good officers and put them in charge of phenomenal people from across the Air Force spectrum.”
The travel schedule with the Thunderbirds was grueling, but Sloane said it was always worth it when the team saw how excited the people at each new show site were to see them.
“I especially liked performing at the smaller towns,” he said. “They may have been smaller shows, but at the places further from a military base, especially, people were not only excited about seeing aviation, they were really excited about seeing the Air Force. It was really neat to showcase the military at shows like that.”
After his tour with the Thunderbirds, Sloane headed to Hill AFB, Utah, where he commanded the 388th OSS and served as deputy commander of the 388th Operations Group. Next was 10 months of Air War College, followed by two years on the joint staff at the Pentagon.
“One of the things I love about the Air Force is the fact that you get to move around so much,” Sloane said. “Every time something becomes a little bit expected, you change scenery, you change jobs and you change responsibilities. And it keeps things a little bit less expected. I like that about military life.”
Sloane said he’s excited for the chance to serve as vice wing commander at Luke and help lead the transition from F-16 to F-35 pilot training.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenges that are ahead,” he said. “Transitioning to the F-35 is going to be a huge thing for the fighter world and for the entire Air Force. It’s important that we do it right. I also look forward to how we treat the F-16s as a legacy weapons system, because it’s been such a big part of the base and community for so many years.”
Sloane is accompanied at Luke by his wife, Lisa, and their 11-year-old twin boys, Mitchell and Quinn. Like their sharp-shooting father, the boys are drawn to the basketball court.
“They’re working hard at it, that’s for sure,” Sloane said. “They’re great boys. They love all sports, and they’re competitors out there. I’m a little slower and older, and I can’t jump as high, but I still get out there and try to show them a thing or two.”