402nd gets new commander

  • Published
  • By Lanorris Askew
  • 78th ABW/PA
The new leader at the helm of the 402nd Maintenance Wing, a self-proclaimed "maintainer at heart," is raring to help continue the organization's award winning legacy.

"I want to become a very productive and active member inside a team that's already performing well and doing great things," said Col. Mark Atkinson, newly appointed 402nd MXW commander.

Arriving from Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, where he served as the Director of Logistics, Installations and Mission Support for Air Education and Training Command, the colonel officially stepped into his new position following an appointment to command ceremony Tuesday at the Museum of Aviation Century of Flight Hangar.

As commander of the 402nd MXW, the Brigadier General select will lead a 7,000- member workforce, which provides depot maintenance, engineering support and software development to major weapon systems including the F-15 Eagle, C-5 Galaxy, C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III and Special Operation Forces aircraft.

Although he was never stationed at Robins, Colonel Atkinson is no stranger to the Center and its inner workings. For three months in 2004 he served as risk reduction team chief of the Focused Area Risk Reduction team, a cross-functional Air Force team which took a detailed look into processes, identifying existing risk, and areas for improvement to make Robins a better and safer place to work.

His mission is now much different. "I plan to look around at the things they do so well and where I find opportunities to make positive changes I will," he said.

To do so he said he will establish time each day to get out and about in the organization and to be where the work takes place, and talk to those who are turning the wrenches and supporting the mission.

While he said he wants to be a team player he also has a plan for leadership.

"A good leader is understanding and works hard to find out how people can contribute their special talents to our success. It's about having the right people in the right places," he said.

Some of the challenges he sees in commanding such a large organization is ensuring all the wing's customers' needs are met. He plans to look after the workforce and the customer by concentrating on the unique needs of both.

One way he plans to support the workforce is by highlighting frequently their importance to the overall mission, so they get an idea of just how very critical they are to the people over in the desert fighting the war.

"I think too many times the people who are back at home contributing in a great way do not get to see their contribution," he said. "I've had the opportunity to talk to people in the AOR who depend on the aircraft and products we produce and they are very thankful. We need to let people here know on a regular basis how important they are to that fight."

For those who wonder what the new guy is looking for he has this message.

"Loyalty and honesty are things I look for right off the bat," he said. Loyalty to the organization, to the mission, to the command and to each other. Honesty to tell the truth, speak their mind, and realize together we can fix any issues that may arise. Maj. Gen. Tom Owen, who served as presiding officer at the ceremony Tuesday said he has been in the hiring business for a long time and he is pleased to turn the 402nd Maintenance Wing over to Colonel Atkinson.

"What a great individual and team," he said of the colonel and his wife.

The new commander's remarks to the audience were short and to the point.

"I am a maintainer at heart through and through and I look forward to sharing some great times with some great people and making some great memories," he said.