New 513th ACG commander is familiar face

Col. John E. Trnka Jr. prepares to accept the 513th Air Control Group flag from Brig. Gen. Thomas R. Coon, 10th Air Force commander, during the change of command ceremony July 15. (Air Force photo)

Col. John E. Trnka Jr. prepares to accept the 513th Air Control Group flag from Brig. Gen. Thomas R. Coon, 10th Air Force commander, during the change of command ceremony July 15. (Air Force photo)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- The new commander of the 513th Air Control Group may be new to the position, but he's no stranger to Tinker Air Force Base or the 513th ACG.
   Col. John E. Trnka Jr. officially took command of the 513th during a change of command ceremony on July 15, replacing outgoing commander Col. Gregory Phillips.
   For Col. Trnka, who in past assignments had served in several positions within the 513th ACG including deputy commander, taking command represents a homecoming of sorts.
   "It feels great. I've known many of these people very well, for a long time," he said. "We've been deployed together and now this new position will allow me to meet many more."
   Trnka has spent the last two years serving as chief of Information Security Group, Standing Joint Forces Headquarters, Joint Forces Command at Navy Station Norfolk, Va. He's now excited about his new position at Tinker.
   "I am blessed to have this opportunity," Col. Trnka said. "This is beyond any hope or expectation I ever had."
   Col. Trnka now says he's looking forward to implementing his own style of management into the 513th ACG.
   "I'm very low-key," said Col. Trnka. "I like to be out among the troops, out in the shop, on the flight line, out with the people who are working. The less time I'm in the office the better. I like to manage by being around people and staying involved. I guess you could call my management style 'management by walking around.'"
   While he's less than two months into his new position, Col. Trnka is already thinking about the challenges that lie ahead.
   "One of our biggest challenges is the shrinking dollars," he said. "As the Air Force continues to spend money on new aircraft, all systems currently in place must show their value. AWACS have always had value, and now we must continue to be relevant and valuable. We have always done our mission very well and we must maintain that excellence, maintain our experience, and continue to bring in good people. That allows us to show value and will keep us in good shape."
   Col. Trnka also said he believes the 513th ACG must continue to look toward future opportunities.
   "We have to think about what other missions logically fit into our view, and be forward thinking about our future," he said. "We have to ask ourselves, 'How do we refine what we are doing to be of more value?'
   "At the same time, we have to consider how you integrate those missions into a reservist lifestyle. We have to make sure not to over task our people. We must keep in mind what's the best thing for this unit and these people, both now and for the long term."
   Col. Trnka said he believes the role of the citizen Airman cannot be understated in today's Air Force.
   "The Reserve and Guard are more visible now than they have ever been," he said. "I think the American people value the contributions of the guard and reserves. We and our partner wing work together to accomplish our mission Air Force wide, and that mission can't be accomplished without the reserves. We are no longer looked at as 'second-class citizens.' It truly is one team, one fight."
   Col. Trnka is a traditional reservist and is rated as a senior air battle manager. His appointment to commander represents a first for the 513th ACG, and Col. Trnka hopes it inspires others.
   "I'm proud to be the first traditional reservist commander and the first non-pilot commander," he said. "I think it shows we can open up career paths to other specialties that aren't traditional."
   More than anything, Col. Trnka is looking forward to working to evolve the mission of the 513th ACG while continuing in its tradition of excellence.
   "I'm proud to be coming back to a unit that I was with before," said Col. Trnka. "As commander now, my job is about being out with maintainers on the flight line, being out flying, and ultimately the hope that I can make a positive difference."