Test center welcomes new commander; praises ‘Total Force Integration’
By Staff Sgt. Erich B. Smith, 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 07, 2013
TUCSON, Ariz. -- An Air Guard command pilot took the reins as commander of the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) at the 162nd Fighter Wing after a change-of-command ceremony here May 3.
Col. Matthew J. Manifold replaced Col. Richard J. Dennee, who retired after 30 years of combined military service in the Air Guard and Air Force.
In his speech, Col. Manifold outlined his primary purpose as the new head of the AATC.
"As a test center commander, I'll make sure that Airmen in the field are going to have the best equipment available to prosecute the enemy. And in the next war, we're going to take all that equipment, and do it all over again," he said. "That's my promise."
Col. Manifold arrived in Tucson from Nellis Air Force Base, where he served as Air National Guard Advisor to the Commander, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center. He previously held the position of Director of Operations for the AATC.
Col. Manifold praised the test center as a mecca of collaborative efficiency and wartime relevancy.
"We (AATC) knew what 'Total Force Integration' was before anybody else, and we're a family," he said. "I can do all the testing I want right here, but until I get it in the hands of the warfighter, it does me no good. That's why we have a saying: 'It doesn't count until they're flying and sustaining it in the field.'"
Though the 162nd Fighter Wing is widely known in Air Force circles as a world-premiere, international F-16 training unit, the AATC is unique as it serves as a tenant of the wing with the primary mission of keeping the Air Reserve Component function on par with its active-duty counterpart.
Retired Air Guard Col. Paul H. O'Donnell, the AATC's first commander, said the presence of older aircraft and equipment justified the need to establish a highly functional test center.
"We had aircraft that were no longer in the active inventory," he said. "What we wanted to do was have a way to implement minor-level modifications so that we can continue to have a viable weapons system."
Thus, the Fighter Weapons Office - which would eventually be renamed the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center - became a reality in 1981.
Col. Dennee, the departing commander, said the AATC will move forward in its steadfast commitment of "keeping the mission objectives focused and giving the tools our warfighters need to do their jobs."
"The relationship we (AATC) have with the 162nd Fighter Wing is great," said Col. Manifold, who has logged over 800 combat flying hours during such operations as Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. "They let us hang our hats and park our airplanes here, and even though we are a tenant unit, this wing has never made us feel that way."