Squadrons of the 452nd Maintenance Group assembled July 13 to honor their new group commander when Col. Max T. Stitzer assumed command at a ceremony held at building 2306. He replaces Col. Robert R. Stormes who retired in February.
452nd Air Mobility Wing Commander, Col. Samuel Mahaney presided over the ceremony where family, friends, guests and squadron members saw Stitzer receive the guidon signifying his acceptance of the group commander’s responsibilities.
A native of Ogden, Utah, he has extensive experience leading Air Force organizations that include three aircraft maintenance squadrons, deputy commander of an air control group, a maintenance group and a fighter group. During a deployment for Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Stitzer commanded the U.S. Air Force’s largest squadron in Afghanistan, the NATO International Security Assistance Force.
During a recent interview conducted in his office, he recalled that he didn’t think he would ever be a member of the Air Force. He always loved and respected the military and was around uniformed people his entire life. According to him he had a very acute awareness of who in his family had served in uniform, what they represented and what that meant.
“I could see they were different,” says Stitzer. “But I wasn’t so presumptuous to think that I was made of the same stuff and had that same ability.”
Near the final semester of his senior year in high school, Stitzer’s father came to him and said they needed to talk. “You need to decide what you’re going to do, this is a huge milestone. You’re going to graduate from high school,” said his father.
His father gave him a couple of options that he thought were viable and one of those was to join the military.
“It was a jolt to me. I thought, I guess now is when you can decide if you’re going to do that,” said Stitzer.
He talked to recruiters, took the examinations needed to determine his job qualifications and was aware of what the other services had to offer. But the Air Force was just more natural, he said.
He went to airshows when he was a kid, and his grandfather was an Airman in WWII and retired from Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Stitzer says “it was almost like there was no choice of what I would do.”
The recruiter showed him a list of Air Force specialties he was able to apply for, and the list began with the Air Force jobs with the highest re-enlistment bonuses. Stitzer says he sensed it was a better deal for his recruiter to recruit someone into a bonus specialty than it was for him.
Stitzer recalled, “I said well how about this one here, Intelligence, and his recruiter said “well that requires an interview, I don’t know how well you’ll do.” “Well, why don’t you let me see how well I will do?”
He interviewed for the job and was selected. Stitzer joined the Air Force Reserve as a Target Intelligence Technician.
It turned out for Stitzer that this was exactly where he was supposed to be. He always felt that he was being watched over and says he knows where that watching over comes from.
He will admit that some of it comes from the people around him. Throughout his career people have seen more in him than he sees in himself. They have taken a chance and as a result of their faith in him he has come to take on the responsibilities of group commander.
From an Airman Basic to his second group command, a group with two different weapon systems, and a thousand people, that’s what an eighteen-year-old can look forward to someday, if not more, in our Air Force.