Pilot turned Defender – stepping up to fill the gap

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Octavius Thompson
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The Security Forces career field was short on command candidates so a Vance Air Force Base senior pilot stepped up to fill the gap.

Lt. Col. Peter Usher has devoted his career to flying and training the next generation of Air Force pilots. But he didn’t hesitate when the 71st Flying Training Wing commander asked him to lead the 71st Security Forces Squadron Defenders.

"Having known ‘PJ’ (Usher) for 10 years, I knew his warrior ethos, character and combat experience would make him successful," said Col. Corey Simmons, 71st FTW commander.

After years of hard work and dedication as a pilot, it can be hard to start over in a new career field, especially when you are overseeing an entire squadron. “The learning curve was steep,” said Usher. “I had to shift my mindset from teaching officers how to fly to inspiring young Airmen to embrace the responsibilities of defending the base.”

While leading the Defenders, Usher was also expected to fly at least two times a month to maintain pilot currency. He exceeded expectations by flying two times a week all while making the 71st SFS his number one priority.

“Lessons that I want to leave with my Airmen are that leadership cares and wants to provide them with the necessary resources to complete the mission,” said Usher. “I hope they are more comfortable asking for what they need and proposing new ideas to leadership in the future.”

According to a senior enlisted leader in the unit, Usher has earned the respect of the 71st SFS and the right to be called Defender.

“Colonel Usher brought an outside perspective making it easier for us to think outside the box and do away with some archaic thought processes,” said Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Kasten, 71st SFS manager. “He boosted unit morale and enriched the culture within the 71st SFS family. He will be sorely missed, and his legacy will remain part of this squadron’s heritage for years to come.”

Usher says his career outlook was changed by this assignment and he is dedicated to becoming more hands-off and trusting his Airmen to deliver incredible results.

Usher relinquished command of the squadron during a change-of-command ceremony held June 4 in the Greven Crosswinds Club. Although he will transition back into the pilot community, once a Defender always a Defender.