Longtime 162nd Wing Airman returns to Arizona as wing commander
Brig. Gen. Andrew MacDonald took command of the 162nd Wing in a ceremony Nov. 5 at the Tucson International Airport.
Brig. Gen. Howard Purcell relinquished command to MacDonald, who returned to the 162nd Wing after an assignment in Washington, D.C. MacDonald also promoted to brigadier general during the ceremony in front of family members and distinguished guests, as well as more than 1,200 Air National Guardsmen under his command.
“I am humble and proud to wear your stars,” said MacDonald, implying his promotion was the direct result of Airmen underneath him. “I will give you my best. I promise.”
During the ceremony, Purcell offered some parting words to the wing’s new commander.
“You are about to take part of the most important and rewarding job of your career. The men and women before you are amazing individuals, and together, they make an amazing team,” said Purcell, whose next role will be as chief of staff at the Arizona National Guard headquarters in Phoenix. “Take care of them, and they will take care of the rest. There is nothing out of their reach,” he added.
MacDonald’s military career started as a Marine Corps aviator. He joined the Arizona Air National Guard in 1998. He has served in multiple leadership positions with the 162nd Wing, including as maintenance group commander. His most recent assignment was as executive assistant to recently retired Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, the previous Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
“The key that I saw in General MacDonald was how he came into a new situation at a national level, working with Congress, the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” said Grass. “He was a natural, and he did it very quickly without any fanfare. But he always remembered where he came from, and what he did would have an impact on the Airmen here.”
MacDonald drew on his experience at the National Guard Bureau, highlighting the three main National Guard mission sets: building partnerships, providing homeland security and warfighting.
“Our wing does those three missions in unbelievable fashion,” he said, referencing the wing’s international pilot training and local partnerships, maintaining the “no-fail” aerospace control alert mission, and the MQ-1 reconnaissance and combat support missions.
MacDonald pointed to how the historic Minuteman placed in the middle of the contemporary National Guard moniker applies to the mission-focused mindset of the 162nd Wing Airmen.
“You are what makes the mission,” he told his Airmen.
In closing, MacDonald recognized the tremendous responsibility of carrying on the legacy of a 60-year-old Air National Guard unit, acknowledging its first commander, the recently deceased (Ret) Maj. Gen. Donald E. Morris.
“Way back in 1956 in a small hangar with dirt on the floor and one airplane, General Morris had this vision of the greatness that it is today. He started it, but all the Airmen here have continued it,” he said.
A command pilot with more than 4,400 combined flying hours in the F-16A/C/E, TA-4, T-34C, and EA-6B, MacDonald is a graduate of the State University of New York at Binghamton and of the Naval Post Graduate School, in addition to various correspondence courses from the Air Force and the Marine Corps.