New 910th commander comes home

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Noah J. Tancer
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 910th Airlift Wing welcomed back Col. Jeff “VD” Van Dootingh as the unit’s 28th commander during an assumption of command ceremony, June 6, 2021, at Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

Nearly 17 years of Van Dootingh’s 36-year Air Force career was spent at YARS. He served as the 757th Airlift Squadron C-130H standardization/evaluation navigator from 1991 to 2000, the 910th Operations Group chief of current operations from 2000 to 2005 and the 910th Operations Group deputy commander from 2005 to 2008.

Thirteen years later, Van Dootingh now holds the 910th AW flag and bears the responsibilities it represents. 

Maj. Gen. John Healy, 22nd Air Force commander, presided over the ceremony.

“One thing that stands out about VD is his commitment to family, and while we’ve spoken extensively about his family in his home life, I believe what makes VD such an effective leader all these years is the fact that he takes the military as part of his family as well,” said Healy. “While every commander acknowledges the importance of taking care of those serving under you, VD truly backs this up with his actions…VD has been a trusted resource and adviser, and his reputation for people first has preceded him wherever he’s gone.”

The change/assumption of command ceremony is rooted in military history dating back to the 18th-century reign of King Frederick the Great of Prussia. During that time, organizational flags were developed with colors and symbols unique to each military unit. The soldiers of the unit would dedicate their loyalty and trust to their commander, symbolized by the commander’s flag. When a change in leadership occurred, the individual assuming command would accept the unit’s flag in front of the unit so all could witness their new leader assuming the dutiful position. 

“To the men and women of the 910th Airlift Wing, boy it’s good to be home,” said Van Dootingh. “It’s my honor to take over and serve you and serve with you. I’m anxious to get busy, and I just want to lay out a couple things of where I want us to focus our efforts as I take command so that we take the 910th to the next level. Number one, without any doubt, not even close second, I want to take care of Airmen and their families. After we do that, I want to get after full-spectrum readiness so that we’re ready to answer our nation’s call any time, any day, and go do whatever our nation asks of us. Then third, I want to innovate, innovate, innovate, because budgets are only gonna get tighter, and what we are expected to do for our nation is not going to decrease. So we have to figure out how we’re going to do that with tight budgets and perhaps less resources.”

The 910th Airlift Wing mission statement is, “Combat ready NOW…for tomorrow’s fight!” The 910th Airlift Wing vision statement is, “Maximize our combat capabilities…Delivering decisive tactical airlift, aerial spray and agile combat support!” The 910th AW maintains the Department of Defense’s only large-area, fixed-wing aerial spray capability to control disease-carrying insects, pest insects and undesirable vegetation and to disperse oil spills in large bodies of water. Aerial spray is the second of the Air Force Reserve Command’s three special missions Van Dootingh has commanded, having served as the 403rd Wing commander in charge of the Hurricane Hunters, the only operational unit in the world flying weather reconnaissance on a routine basis.

“I’ll tell you a little story,” said Van Dootingh. “When I went to the Air Force Academy, one of the most frequently asked questions of cadets of each other is, ‘hey, when we graduate and get commissioned as lieutenants, how long do you plan on staying in the Air Force?’ And my answer then is still my answer today. I plan on staying in as long as I’m having fun, and I am. I just love what I do. What makes it worthwhile are Airmen. They show up to work. They want to serve their country. They’re just dedicated professionals. They’re patriotic and I just feel like I owe them my best every single day. They are what makes coming to work worthwhile.”

Van Dootingh was commissioned in 1985 upon graduation from the United States Air Force Academy. A 1986 distinguished graduate of undergraduate navigator training at Mather Air Force Base, California, he served more than six years on active duty as an instructor navigator and flight safety officer before joining the Air Force Reserve in 1991. As a traditional reservist, he served as a standardization/evaluation navigator while working as a chemist until 1995 when he became a dual-status Air Reserve Technician. Since that time, he has held diverse positions including chief of current operations, flying squadron director of operations, numbered Air Force director of staff, operations group commander, wing commander and headquarters division chief.

Previous 910th AW commander Col. Joe Janik continues his AFRC career as commander of the 439th Airlift Wing at Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts.