Story by 1st Lt. Andrew Layton on 06/09/2019BATTLE CREEK, Mich. When Col. Shawn Holtz assumed command of the 110th Wing, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, Mich., Saturday, it marked not only the beginning of a new era for the southwest Michigan base, but a return to roots for one of the Michigan Air National Guard's most experienced combat leaders.
Though Holtz has spent the last 10 years assigned to Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County, his career began at Battle Creek ANG Base when he was selected to fly the A-10 Thunderbolt II there in 1995.
"I grew up in southwest Michigan and completed the aviation program at Western Michigan University," Holtz said. "Coming back to Battle Creek is like coming home."
Holtz has been a member of the Michigan Air National Guard for the entirety of his quarter-century in uniform, but the untold miles he has traveled across the globe have equipped him to clearly see the opportunity Michigan Airmen have to enhance some of the Department of Defense's most relevant missions.
After earning his wings and honors as "top flyer" -- at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, Holtz spent the next 11 years piloting A-10s from Battle Creek with the 172d Fighter Squadron. In the late 1990s, he saw action overseas during operations Deliberate Guard, Allied Force, and Southern Watch. In 2003, he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for meritorious service under fire.
Holtz says that lessons learned while serving with the men and women of Battle Creek especially in deployed environments gave him a perfect foundation to build his career on.
"Throughout my 11 years at the 110th, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with extremely bright and talented Airmen," Holtz said. "I deployed with them on six different occasions and participated in numerous large-scale exercises. Each time, the Airmen of the 110th impressed me with their professionalism and incredible ability to successfully achieve the mission."
When the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission re-assigned Battle Creek's A-10 jets to Selfridge ANG Base, Holtz went with them. Over the next 10 years, he rose to numerous command positions within Selfridge's 127th Wing, including 107th Fighter Squadron commander, 107th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, 127th Operations Group commander, and 127th Mission Support Group commander.
With the 127th, Holtz deployed again in 2015 to lead the 107th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, commanding more than 320 operations and maintenance personnel serving at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait. With a total of more than 800 combat hours in the A-10, Holtz brings a warrior's mentality to the leadership challenges he will face in his latest assignment at Battle Creek.
"A good leader is transparent and clearly identifies expectations; you must lead by example and exemplify the core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do," he said. "A good leader must be a great listener, consistent, humble, and build cohesive teams striving for common goals."
There is, however, more to Holtz than his impressive command biography. He is an avid private pilot and motorcyclist who calls his family wife, Melissa, and sons Garrett and Kaden his top priority. As a commander, Holtz seeks to encourage Airmen to recognize that much of the Air National Guard's mission would not be possible without strong relationships not only for Airmen and their families at home, but also as an organization, with the community that surrounds a Wing.
"My number one priority will always be the well-being of the Airmen of the 110th and their families," Holtz said. "I vividly remember the 2005 BRAC and the adverse effect it had on 110th Fighter Wing members, their families, and the community. I will strive to seek out new complimentary missions that align with our national, state, and Wing strategy making the 110th a vital and resilient asset to our nation. I will foster an environment of inclusion and growth, giving all Airmen the opportunity to achieve their goals."
Holtz succeeds Col. Bryan Teff, who has led the 110th Wing since 2015. After the transition of command responsibilities, Teff was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and assumed duties as Chief of Staff, Michigan Air National Guard, Michigan National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters, in Lansing.
According to Teff, under Holtz's leadership, the 110th Wing is poised to continue its resurgence as an elite Air National Guard Wing providing premier mission capability.
"The 110th has evolved from an era of change to era of opportunity," he said. "We are now truly an operational Wing with in-demand missions and an outstanding future."
Since 2015, the Wing has added more than 100 new positions, including a robust Cyber Defense squadron and a Headquarters Air Force-level Joint Task Force mission. The base's other missions include remote support of MQ-9 Reaper flying operations, Agile Combat Support capabilities, and a Command & Control planning cell supporting U.S. Air Forces Europe Air Forces Africa.
"The transformation of the Wing as a whole is a top highlight of my three-and-a-half years year," Teff said. "In addition to advancing our established missions, we quickly and seamlessly stood-up two different mission sets. I'm very proud of the work the men and women of the 110th did to capitalize on opportunity and establish our relevance and credibility in our new missions."
Holtz is ready to carry on the torch of leadership that has burned since Battle Creek ANG Base was commissioned with its first Federal mission in 1947. Though the Wing's missions have changed numerous times since then, Holtz's focus is on the one thing that will always define the unit's relevance and capability: its people.
"I am honored to be given this opportunity to lead the 110th Wing and I thank Col. Teff and his predecessors who have made this Wing the incredibly successful organization it is today," Holtz said. "I am here to enable the amazing men and women of the 110th and provide them with the tools to succeed in their mission and continue to make the 110th an amazing place to serve."