Good leaders give clear direction, support their people and guide them toward success. But great leaders take it one step further. They spend the day in Baton Rouge delivering supplies and checking on each of their Airmen after a flood. They drive all day to make it home in time for a child’s event because being there for their Airmen means they must live two states away from their family. They try to dodge photos and articles and recognition because they would rather see their people in the spotlight.
According to Airmen in the 403rd Wing, their commander, Col. Michael Manion, is a great leader.
May 4, 2017 - U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Manion, 403rd Wing Commander stands proudly in front of an American Flag on a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during the final flight of his Air Force career at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney)
He started his Air Force journey as a student at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and was commissioned upon his graduation in 1987. Once he completed technical and aircraft-specific training in 1989, he began his career as a pilot at his first duty station at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. Since then he’s had seven duty assignments and deployed 10 times in support of operations Desert Storm, Restore Hope, Deny Flight, Noble Anvil, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
“During my service I've been fortunate to be able to do what I trained to do; whether it was refueling F-4's low on fuel in Desert Storm, picking up an Afghani boy at 8,500 feet in the mountains, working at Air Force Special Operations Command headquarters or being a member of the unrivaled 403rd Wing,” he said. “It's been a great journey filled with so many wonderful people.”
The colonel said joining the military was the only career path he ever considered. He grew up in an Air Force family where his father spent 22 years as an aeromedical technician on rescue helicopters.
“I was raised to see the great opportunities that we have in this country, and I wanted to do something to give back,” Manion said. “It was in my blood.”
He spent his entire career giving back.
One thing he said he’s enjoyed about his career is the opportunity to mentor Airmen.
“I’ve been fortunate to do many things,” Manion said. “My first goal was to be a leader and flying was a bonus.”
One way he helps develop young Airmen is through his role as chairmen of the 403rd Wing Human Resources Development Council. This group was established to give Airmen a forum to voice concerns or share innovative ideas as well as plan opportunities for mentorship and building wing morale.
“Colonel Manion has inspired many young Airmen in his role as chairman of the HRDC by making them feel comfortable and giving them the tools to develop as Airmen,” said Staff Sgt. Ashley Bever, 403rd Wing HRDC vice chairman. “From the moment I met him I was inspired because he always shares his knowledge openly and teaches us about greatness. I’ve learned so much from him over the years.”
May 4, 2017 - U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Manion, 403rd Wing Commander (left) and Capt. Nick Foreman, 815th Airlift Squadron pilot land a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during the final flight of his Air Force career at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney)
One thing he said he wants Airmen to understand is that it’s not about getting promoted, it’s about doing the job you have now and doing it to the best of your ability.
“It may not be what you want to do, but do the best you can at it because that’s the role you’re in,” he said. “Don’t do things to get promoted, do them because it’s the right thing to do.”
That advice also aligns with the Air Force core value of service before self, which means setting aside personal desires to accomplish the mission and contribute to the bigger picture.
“Colonel Manion is the epitome of service before self,” said Col. Chad Segura, 403rd Mission Support Group commander. “He has stepped up every time the wing has needed him. It's amazing to think he has commanded the aeromedical staging squadron, maintenance group and mission support group in addition to his duties as vice and wing commander. He truly has impacted every unit on base. More personally, he served as a vital mentor to me. I honestly would not be where I am now without his encouragement.”
“Colonel Manion is always a gentlemen, calm under pressure, on time to each event and loyal to duty and unit,” said Col. Jay Johnson, 403rd Maintenance Group commander.
Johnson said that Manion has made an impact on the 403rd Wing by providing stability during uncertain times, acting as calm during the storm, and always being compassionate toward fellow Airmen. He also said the colonel taught him how to remain confident, listen before speaking, and reinstall his patriotism.
Manion said the biggest things he’ll take away from his time at the 403rd Wing are that the Airmen are outstanding and the support from the 81st Training Wing is second to none.
“I’m just amazed at the high quality of people we have and the jobs they do. Our Reserve Citizen Airmen all have interesting backgrounds and stories and have a lot to contribute,” he said. “You see them in their role as an aerial porter or a nurse and in the background they do something completely different.”
May 4, 2017 - U.S. Air Force Col. Michael W. Manion, 403rd Wing commander, is sprayed with water after his final flight on a C-130J Super Hercules at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney)
The colonel said he’d like to see the wing continue with their excellence and continue exporting that excellence to the rest of the Air Force.
“We have so many good Airmen, and I want to see them continue to be successful,” he said.
The colonel will retire during a ceremony scheduled for 2 p.m. May 7 at the Roberts Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Facility auditorium.
“After retirement I’m going to take some time off to spend with my family. Like many Airmen I’ve been on the road a lot, so I’m excited to have time with them,” he said. “I couldn’t have served like I have without the outstanding support I’ve received, especially from my wife Lisa and my children Kaci, Alexandra and Christopher. I could not have put in as much as I have with the passion I have without support from friends and family along the way.
“It’s been an honor for me to wear the uniform and to serve with so many outstanding men and women,” he said.
By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney
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