Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle
VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. —
The incoming wing commander at Vance Air Force Base, unlike his predecessor, comes from the fighter community.
Col. Clark J. Quinn will take over as the 36th commander of 71st Flying Training Wing in a change-of-command ceremony at 9 a.m. June 18 in hanger 199 at Vance Air Force Base.
Quinn is a senior pilot with more than 2,400 hours in fighter jets — F-15Es and F-16s.
He comes to Vance from Shaw AFB, S.C., where until April he was vice commander of 20th Fighter Wing, which includes three squadrons of F-16CJs.
He will succeed Col. Darren V. James, who has been 71st FTW commander since June 2012. James’ background is in transport aircraft. He succeeded then-Col. Russell Mack, a fighter pilot with many hours in the A-10.
“The tendency here is to rotate between fighter and heavy lift commanders,” said James.
Quinn, a 1991 graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in aerospace engineering, was a navigator and weapons systems officer before becoming a pilot. After receiving his commission from Officer Training School in 1993, he began his Air Force career as a space test engineer, then completed navigator training in August 1996. It wasn’t until June 1999 when he got his wings from Laughlin AFB, Texas.
He deployed in support of Operation Southern Watch in Iraq and Unified Protector in Lybia, as well as serving multiple tours at the 609th Combined Air and Space Operation Center in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Quinn has served as a wing inspector general and has been a squadron commander, as well as a branch chief and program element monitor on the Air Staff.
Quinn has been awarded the Bronze Star, the Air Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters.
He took his final flight in an F-16 at Shaw in early April.
“I enjoyed being his crew chief during his final flight,” said Senior Airman William Fallon, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron tactical aircraft maintenance journeyman, of Quinn. “He’s a great leader and just an all-around great guy. We hate to see him go.”
James said he hasn’t had much time to speak with his successor, whom he has never met, but will get that opportunity in the days before the change of command. He said he will try to fill Quinn in about the particular challenges of dealing with the large civilian contractor presence at Vance.
“There’s going to be some differences here just based on how we execute the mission and the fact we have a large contract influence,” James said. “The one thing that I was most uncertain about was the contract piece, so we’ll sit and talk about that.”
Quinn will get a chance to meet local leaders at a reception the night before the change of command in honor of Gen. Robin Rand, head of Air Education and Training Command, who will officiate the change of command ceremony.
“Obviously, we’ll brag about the fact the city of Enid is the Altus Trophy Winner (for best community support of a base in AETC),” James said. “So he (Quinn) knows he is ending up with the most outstanding support in Air Education and Training Command.
“He has a phenomenal team that’s going to be here to support him, so I have no doubt that the wing will continue to fire on all cylinders and continue to improve year in and year out.”