Third Air Force commander’s mission and vision

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Every leader throughout the course of history has had to live up to the task of gathering information coming at them from all sides, know the strengths and weaknesses of the people they surround themselves with and then take action.

Critical decision making is the epitome of effective leadership, and determines whether the mission will succeed or fail.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Wood, Third Air Force commander, who stated these words during his visit to RAF Mildenhall, England May 31, strongly believes anyone can be a leader, but they must make decisions and act swiftly and effectively.

“When I was younger, and I still believe this to this day, you have to know the rules and you’ve got to do your best,” Wood said. “Anyone can be a leader, but they must understand what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and put their best effort in.”

“And as such, the U.S. Air Force employs core values which help steer all of us in the right direction towards success.”

Wood first learned of these values when he earned his commission in 1989, after earning a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of California at Davis. He then attended pilot training at Vance Air Force Base, and would go onto primarily fly aircraft such as the C-130, KC-10, C-17 and C-21, amongst others.

He has also held multiple squadron and wing commands, and as of Sept. 2018, is commander of Third Air Force based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and consists of more than 32,000 Airmen across Europe and Africa.

“As a unique numbered, forward deployed Air Force asset, our Airmen are forward deployed to bases in Europe, then further deployed to numerous places in our area of responsibility, and embark on a nationally important mission.” Wood stated.


Wood’s idea of being a great leader, and trying to be one himself, has always been aligned with making a decision and acting decisively.

Similarly, this is the trait he looks for most when selecting commanders for Third Air Force installations across Europe and Africa.

“As I’ve gotten older, one thing I see when it comes to leadership, you need a leader who can decide and act,” Wood said. “I’m not looking for leaders who will walk around and simply say ‘what can I do to help?’, I’m looking for leaders, in both enlisted and officer realms, who have a great ability to act and get the job done.”

Wood explained that there are multiple examples of Third Air Force Airmen who see something and take action, whether it’s on or off duty, and says these are the signs of future leaders.

“As a young captain, the best advice I received was that you should find somebody who is doing great work to emulate, and then ask them how to do it,” Wood explained. “Every unit I went to, this was always my plan and asking ‘what should I do, what should I study?’”


Being a great leader on duty is as important as being a great person off duty, and according to Wood, this is essential to having a great work and personal life while stationed in Europe.

“There are two parts to the exceptional opportunity of being here – the mission and traveling,” he said. “On the military side, it’s a fantastic time to be in this theatre because we have to be operationally trained, be alert and prepared to successfully execute our mission.”

Wood also explained how important the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance is to our success overseas and allows for us to successfully send mission-ready Airmen all over this theatre.

As for traveling, Wood believes that for Airmen and their families to be personally successful here, they must be willing to not change who they are and try different experiences.

“Be yourself,” Wood said. “Be respectful of the country you reside in, learn the culture and get out there and explore. Families who have the best time are those who take every opportunity to see everything in their path.”


With it being close to the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of France, and the historical impact the Bloody Hundredth in that fateful campaign, Wood made sure to honor of those who came before, and discuss the lessons we should learn from them.

“If you think through our heritage as the Army Air Corps, to where we are today as the U.S. Air Force, June 6, 1944 is a truly pivotal date for us,” Wood stated. “If we think through the land invasion and the risk both us and our allies took at the beaches, we needed protection from above.”

“A ton of history of D-Day are very applicable today because we succeeded then due to allies and partnerships, as we still do today.”

Wood said that Airmen should read and study this moment in history and understand those who came before, and thank those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

100th ARW

Moreover, with the 100th Air Refueling Wing being a part of the Third Air Force commander’s realm of command, Wood took the time to thank the Airmen for their hard work and effort each day.

“This is a magnificent wing for Europe and Africa,” Wood remarked. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what your role is, it only matters that you’re a 100th ARW Airman. You should all be proud of telling your friends and family that you’re an airman serving your country in Europe, and you’re making a difference.

“Airmen should always, and I believe will continue to be, proud of what they do and the mission they serve.”