Unfamilar role - from deployment to retirement

  • Published
  • By Frank McIntyre
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Most Team Vance members returning from deployment are soon back to the familiar jobs they had before leaving. Lt. Col. Jeff Hilton's return meant assuming a very unfamiliar role - Air Force retiree.

Colonel Hilton already had his March retirement date set when he volunteered for deployment. The chief of quality assurance for simulators and academics with the 71st Operations Support Squadron hoped an assignment not directly associated with flying would better prepare him for a civilian career away from the cockpit.
Expecting to be sent to Iraq after volunteering, Colonel Hilton instead found himself assigned to European Command working with the Joint Inter Agency Coordination Group out of Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany.

"The JIACG combines civilian agencies with all branches of the military in order to fight the Global War on Terrorism, which has worldwide terrorist networks as our non-state enemy," Colonel Hilton said of his assigned organization. "From Germany, we had representatives from such civilian agencies as the FBI, Treasury and State Departments working in a joint effort with all branches our military to fight the GWOT in Europe. It was really good to see all the government agencies working together for a common cause."

While not able to discuss specifics of his duty, the 27-year veteran did get to talk about some gunfire he experienced while in Germany.

"It was shortly after I arrived in September and EUCOM formed three teams of American to compete in the German Shootfest. It was an opportunity to meet members of the German, French and Swiss military in a fun event. But I was expecting much since the only firing I've done is my required qualifying training."

Unexpected or not, the colonel's all Air Force EUCOM team - the Five Ring Team - bested 100 other teams to capture the first place trophy. Competition was 15 rounds each with the German P8 pistol, a G-36 rifle and a MG-3 machine gun.

"I think our success may have been because of extra sleep we got while other teams partied following a group dinner the night before the competition," Colonel Hilton said. "I know our win came as a surprise to the favorites; a U.S. Army Special Forces Ranger team."

Colonel Hilton's retirement will bring him back together with another team of four. With Elizabeth, his wife of less than a year, the couple has four children. His son Greg is a student at Oklahoma University and his daughter Kim is a recent high school graduate. Elizabeth has two sons, Matthew 10 and Eric, 7. Except for the OU student, the family is all in Falls Church, Va., waiting for the colonel to join them permanently as new retiree.

"Lt Col Jeff Hilton has embodied our Air Force core values throughout his entire career. As his last duty, he volunteered for a 4-month deployment where he made a significant impact as an action officer working national security issues across the European Command area of operations," said Lt. Col. Ron Baldinger, 71st OSS commander. "His return marks the final chapter of a successful career as an officer, fighter pilot, instructor and mentor. We look forward to celebrating his retirement this month and we wish him and his family the best of luck in their future."