SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. - Stepping into the role as the 4th Fighter Wing vice commander has allowed one airman's passion for service and ensuring the welfare of airmen and their families to flourish.
When Col. Evan Pettus (photo left) reached for the stars and began his journey with the Air Force, he never imagined it would take him to where he is today.
“I joined the Air Force because I wanted to serve my country,” he explained. “When I was a little kid I wanted to be an astronaut, I began exploring paths to get to space. I learned about aviation and being a test pilot and, eventually, I was determined to join the Air Force. When I became a fighter pilot I liked it so much I never looked back or even thought about pursuing my astronaut dream again.”
After graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering, Pettus went through pilot training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, then ended up at what would be his first of two assignments to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.
During his first experience in 1996, Pettus, then a second lieutenant assigned to the 334th Fighter Squadron, focused on learning the ins-and-outs of the F-15E Strike Eagle.
Now, 17 years later, following attendance at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, A.L., he's returned as the vice commander. Pettus said his new job is leaps-and-bounds from his beginnings as a novice pilot.
“It feels great return to the 4th FW. It's such a historic unit with an incredible heritage and it's really a privilege to be back here with a completely different perspective,” he said. “Now my business is trying to make life better for airmen, their families and other people who serve this wing, whether they're contractors or out in the community.”
Pettus said his main goal is ensuring the welfare of the 4th FW family, which directly relates to helping build well-trained airmen, ready to accomplish the wing's mission of “Dominant Strike Eagle Airpower Anytime, Anyplace.” A step toward that objective is assisting airmen who are facing adversity.
“The first thing I'd want [airmen facing hardship] to know is they're not alone or abnormal,” he said. “Everybody goes through troubles. That's what makes you human. People tend to hide behind social media and portray a perfect life, but that isn't the case. We all have hardships we deal with on a daily basis, including me. The second thing I want them to know is there are an immense amount of resources out there that can help, including the Airman & Family Readiness Center and Military OneSource online counselors. [Airmen] should take advantage of them.”
Another source he pointed out was the Comprehensive Airman Fitness program. Airmen are encouraged to exercise their mental, physical, spiritual and social fitness pillars to be able to deal with troubling times.
To find balance between being the vice commander of Air Combat Command's largest fighter wing and being a husband and father, Pettus said he finds the most solace in simply spending quality time with his family.
“After a long week, my family and I like to spend Saturday morning accomplishing things on our to-do list to include knocking out a few chores; some ‘family clean-uppers,'” he said. “We'll go out, get something to eat and look for something relaxing to do, whether we go out for a bike ride or a walk. We don't have a cookie-cutter habit but we do look forward to spending some time together and decompressing.”
Pettus said merely knowing that he gets to serve his country and positively influence his fellow airmen's lives is something he cherishes as he reflects on career highlights.
“The things that stand out to me in my career are the times I've impacted people's lives, in terms of assisting an airman accomplishing their goal or helping someone in their time of need,” he said. “The other day, I had an officer approach me who I mentored as a squadron commander a few years back. He thanked me for my assistance in rejoining his family after they suffered a misfortune during his deployment. That really impacted me to know he remembers something I did well during my command; that I helped his family. That was a big deal for me and something I will never forget.”
As he looks forward in his career, Pettus feels as though he is in the right place at the right time.
“My favorite assignment thus far is this one because it's really allowed me to get out and meet people from all walks of life and get to know their stories,” he said. “To the airmen of the 4th FW – I am extraordinarily proud to be associated with you. Your pride in what you do is readily evident and it's a real privilege to serve here.”
As the new 4th Fighter Wing vice commander, U.S. Air Force Col. Evan Pettus' main goal is to support the wing's mission of delivering dominant Strike Eagle airpower anytime, anyplace, by building well-trained airmen, ready to execute any task presented. This is Pettus' second assignment at the 4th FW; his first was in 1996 as a student pilot-in-training assigned to the 334th Fighter Squadron.
By USAF Senior Airman Aubrey White
Provided through DVIDS
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