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552nd ACW commander aims to help make America’s Wing better, stronger

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Twenty-one years ago and fresh out of pilot training a young second lieutenant began his Air Force career at the 552nd Air Control Wing. In mid-June, he returned as a colonel to lead America's Wing.

Although the atmosphere is different than when his career began in 1992, Col. Jay Bickley said he brings a wealth of information to the job and can support his Airmen during the trying financial times, helping to make the wing better and stronger.

"I think there are a lot of folks in our Air Force who are looking at our fiscal challenges in a very negative light and those who say we'll never be the same Air Force again. In fact, I heard one gentleman say we may need to look at being a regional force versus a global power," he said. "I don't agree. I think we have an opportunity to emerge a more lethal and leaner Air Force better prepared to face the challenges of the future."
In fact, he said it's his Airmen who can and will do the job.

"With every challenge comes opportunities and our Airmen know what those opportunities are. There are Airmen in our wing who have the answers and know how to do things better," the colonel said. "It's up to us to enable those Airmen to tell us how to do it smarter, cheaper and faster, and I'm very optimistic we'll get there. I firmly believe we'll emerge a more capable force.

"We have an amazing group of professional Airmen in the 552nd ACW and if you give them the opportunity to perform and give them all the tools they need, they will do magnificent things," he said. "My biggest job is to create an environment that's conducive to their success."

Colonel Bickley arrived at Tinker from the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., where he served as the director of Air Force Lessons Learned Division. Additionally, he has two previous 552nd ACW assignments under his belt, more than 4,500 hours of flight time, NATO and command experience.

In his previous Tinker assignments and watching Oklahomans in action following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and various tornadoes, he is not the least bit surprised by the strength and resiliency of people in this state. It is that attitude, which will help the wing and Air Force persevere.

"You'll be hard pressed to find people more resilient than the people of Oklahoma," Colonel Bickley said. "Their spirit is what really impresses and inspires me."

The colonel said his interest in the Air Force began with his father, a veteran of the Army Air Corps, who instilled the core values, pride and importance of the mission in him. Combined with a desire to serve and pilot aircraft, Colonel Bickley pursued his dream and excelled. Initially, he focused on piloting, but eventually commanded a squadron here at Tinker surpassing more than his wildest dreams.

"To me it just affirms my dedication to the Air Force, which has given me so many opportunities I never would have had otherwise," he said. "I'm just honored to serve as long as the Air Force continues giving me opportunities. I'm committed and dedicated to giving the 552nd ACW Airmen an environment to thrive; they are America's treasure."