Col. Eilers: 72nd MSG commander and mentor

Col. James Eilers addresses the Airmen and civilians of the 72nd Mission Support Group moments after assuming command of the group during a July 9 ceremony outside of the Tinker Club. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Col. James Eilers addresses the Airmen and civilians of the 72nd Mission Support Group moments after assuming command of the group during a July 9 ceremony outside of the Tinker Club. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- His official title is 72nd Mission Support Group commander, but Col. James Eilers will tell you he's simply an Airman who cares about his people.
   Col. Eilers oversees base services for 40 associate units assigned to five Major Commands. In total, his group supports more than 50,000 military, dependents, civilians and retirees.
   The colonel said his focus is two-fold: improving processes within the mission support group and mentoring young Airmen.
   "I've got a lot of faith and confidence in my people, especially in the mission support group team," the colonel said. "I think it's my job to provide them the leadership and guidance and the training and tools to help them move us along and be successful as a group and take us to the next level."
   Col. Eilers' own experience began 31 years ago when he enlisted after high school. Following boot camp, the native Pennsylvanian left for his first assignment in Spain, where he learned Spanish.
   "(After high school) I didn't know what I wanted to do and I saw the Air Force as a great opportunity," the colonel said. "It didn't occur to me what I wanted to do until about two-and-a-half years later when the (Air Force) career counselor said, 'What do you want to do with yourself.'"
   Col. Eilers said he wanted to fly planes. In order to do so, the colonel learned he'd need a college education. So, during his next assignment at Loring AFB, Maine, the colonel earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Husson College.
   "I finished a four-year degree in two-and-a-half years," the colonel said. "I think it was the question from the career counselor and someone taking an interest in me to kind of get me on track."
   As he learned the ins-and-outs of the Air Force, he said he also learned about himself and can use those lessons to mentor others about the Air Force and potential career paths.
   Since Col. Eilers was commissioned through Officer Training School in 1984, he's moved up through the ranks, completing commander assignments and familiarizing himself with the Air Force Materiel Command and the Air Combat Command, among other commands, yet never forgetting where his career began.
   Col. Eilers said he and his wife, Carla, try to give back to the community with each assignment.
   At previous stations, they were active in fund raising for charities and organizing community events. The colonel said the couple will strive to make a difference at Tinker.
   "Being able to have a positive effect on people's lives is hugely important to me and being able to make a difference is what I think command is all about," the colonel said.