Story by SSgt Mary McKnight on 08/08/2019SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. (July 24, 2019) The 916th Air Refueling Wing gave a warm welcome to their new vice commander, Col. Michael B. Parks, who touched down July 10, here.
What a warm welcome it was.
"I left Germany and it was a hot spell," said Parks as he laughed at the thought. "It was 85 degrees with zero percent humidity when I left and all the Germans were feeling the heat. As I show up to Goldsboro its 98 degrees with 100 percent humidity and it feels like 107 degrees."
Like climate changes, one chapter ends and another begins as Parks is ready to focus on his new task at hand, the 916 ARW.
Parks' personal goal is to help out the commander, Col. Craig McPike, commander of the 916 ARW, with the Airmen and mission of the 916 ARW, said Parks. He is fully dedicated to integrating himself into the culture of the 916 ARW while taking care of the Airmen. With 22 years of active duty experience Parks admits he still has a lot to learn about the challenges of reservists, how they stay mission ready and still fulfill their civilian commitments.
To help make this a smooth transition Parks requested the following.
"All I ask is that people come up to introduce themselves," said Parks. "Be patient with me as I try to learn all of your names in a short period of time and letting me know where I can help. That's all I'm here to do. If I do not know what you need I can't help you. All I ask is you come to meet me and tell me where I can help."
His path to the 916 ARW is very straight, unlike his start into the Air Force.
His dad was a tennis coach, so Parks played tennis competitively his entire life. Being from Columbus, Ohio he looked into attending, "the" Ohio State University, which is how Ohio natives refers to Ohio State University, said Parks with a laugh.
Like most high school students looking to attend a college or university Parks consulted with his parents, more specifically his dad. When the United States Military Academy at West Point attempted to recruit Parks for tennis, he visited the historic campus and saw how beautiful it was there. Only one question remained, a question posed by his father, a prior Army draftee in the Vietnam War. Did Parks want to live in a tent?
The apparent answer was no, but his visit did spark an interest in the military. Parks contacted and visited the United States Naval Academy that he described as gorgeous, but he didn't want to live on a ship, said Parks.
Quite naturally, up next? The United States Air Force Academy.
"We contacted the Air Force Academy's coach and they flew me out there," said Parks. "I went out to the United States Air Force Academy and just fell in love with it. I joined the military via the Air Force Academy and played tennis on the varsity team all four years."
That rally between the academies ended with a groundstroke delivered by the Air Force Academy for the win and lead to jumpstarting Parks' Air Force career.
More than twenty years and three KC-135 Stratotanker assignments later Parks is ecstatic to join the 916 ARW as the wing embarks on an amazing opportunity to be the first wing in the Air Force Reserve Command to demonstrate the capabilities of the KC-46A Pegasus and integrate the KC-46A into the same mission types flown by the KC-135, said Parks.
Parks welcomes the 916 ARW in the same regard as the 916 ARW has welcomed himself and his family upon arrival, warmly.
"Thank you to the entire team for welcoming me and my family to the 916th," said Parks. "I look forward to meeting members of the wing and carrying forward their reserve-citizen Airmen perspectives back to the active duty."