HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --
The world, today, is full of new challenges amid conforming to a “new normal” necessary to co-exist with COVID-19. Air Commandos have risen above and beyond these uncertainties and proven their adaptability and initiative to continue executing the mission – anytime, anyplace.
Today, in a new take on a historic tradition, Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, presided over the change of command ceremony that was broadcasted via Facebook Live due to social distancing protocol, marking Col. Jocelyn Schermerhorn’s command of the 1st Special Operations Wing.
Opening with his final sentiments to Brig. Gen. (Sel.) Michael Conley, departing commander of the 1st SOW, Slife praised the wing. The 1st SOW, under Conley’s direction for the past two years, serves as a pivotal component in AFSOCs ability to conduct special operations missions.
"Wing commanders come and wing commanders go and this wing never fails … It’s because of the Airmen. It’s the culture, it’s the mission focus, it’s the civil servants that support this wing, and have for so many years, that have never let this wing fail,” noted Slife. “With that said, even though the wing has never failed, some wing commanders leave a more lasting mark than others and I think it would be hard to look back over the history of the 1st SOW and find somebody that you might say has had a more impactful tour than that of Col. Conley.”
Slife recalls the challenges the wing has overcome during Conley’s command, from Hurricane Michael, occurring within just four months of Conley’s arrival, to the trials of COVID-19 that have occurred during the last four.
“Your leadership has been bold, it’s been courageous, it’s been inspirational, and it truly has been your finest hour,” Slife said to Conley.
He then transitioned to what’s to come under Schermerhorn’s command stating that, “You should expect a continuation of first-rate leadership.”
Ready to hit the ground running, Schermerhorn will now oversee the 1st SOW’s four groups and 26 squadrons, as well as Hurlburt Field’s over 40 tenant units, including Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command.
The 1st SOW mission includes planning, posturing and executing precision strike, specialized mobility and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, employing more than 80 aircraft, to which Schermerhorn is no stranger.
Schermerhorn has distinguished herself as a master navigator with over 3,500 flight hours garnered as a C-130E and MC-130H evaluator navigator, and a U-28 Combat Systems Operator. She has also participated in a number of worldwide operations to include Operations JOINT GUARD, ALLIED FORCE, ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM.
Marking her third assignment at Hurlburt Field, Schermerhorn has the added recognition as the first female wing commander not only since the 1st SOW's activation, but in AFSOC history, which encompasses five active duty wings.
“Welcome home. You are now in charge of more than 5,400 of America’s greatest assets,” said Conley to his successor.
After thanking Slife for his leadership and allowing her to serve in this capacity, Schemerhorn gave credit to Conley, passing her final farewell to the future vice commander of the Space Operations Command.
“Best of luck on your next adventure,” Schermerhorn said to Conley. “To infinity and beyond.”
Prior to this assignment, Schermerhorn served as the vice commander of the 11th Wing, Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facility Washington, Md.
“To the men and women of the 1st SOW, I have missed you. I have missed your spirit, courage, determination, and professionalism. Your never-quit, make it happen, ‘get to yes’ attitude … the unique traits that define you as Air Commandos,” said Schermerhorn. “We will continue the fight tonight, and when we are needed somewhere unexpected, we will be ready. Anytime, Anyplace.”
A new beginning during unprecedented times, AFSOC leadership has full faith in Schermerhorn and what she will bring to the wing.
"I will never forget what a courageous leader [Schermerhorn] is when it comes to standing up for what she thinks is right and standing up for her Airmen,’ said Slife, recalling when she was a squadron commander while he was the 1st SOW commander.
“So, to the men and women of the 1st SOW, you’ve got a fighter for a new commander.”