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Colonel Engle looks back on enjoyable career

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- When Col. Thomas Engle commissioned into the Air Force in 1990, he had only one goal - to fly "black jets," otherwise known as high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. He achieved his goal and said he also gained several more fantastic experiences including serving in the 552nd Air Control Wing.

On Aug. 1, the air control wing vice commander will retire after 23 years of service. Looking back on his career, he said he enjoyed every minute, particularly his time in America's Wing. Those who served with him said they appreciate his service and will miss him.

"As an officer with no prior association with the 552nd ACW, it was an honor to be welcomed into the command and control community, to learn about the mission of the E-3 Sentry and control and reporting centers, and serve alongside such an outstanding group of professional Airmen," said Colonel Engle.

Upon graduation from the Air Force Academy, Colonel Engle went to pilot training and flew KC-135 Stratotankers and the Royal air force Vickers VC-10K, a British airliner, before achieving his dream of flying a U-2, single-engine, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft.

Only 11 years into his career, he wasn't ready to hang up the uniform. The young major needed a new goal.

"As I matured into that role, I learned more about the Air Force and leading people," he said. "I became more intrigued by how the organization works and how we conduct our mission, and less on the mechanics of flying machines.

"While I still have a passion for airplanes, I learned it was far more rewarding to develop people and watch them become productive members of the team," Colonel Engle said.
As his career progressed, the colonel with more than 3,800 flying hours, accepted squadron commander positions, roles in the Pentagon and furthered his education prior to coming to the 552nd ACW.

These days, he said he's only just beginning to learn how the Air Force functions as a service.

"We spend the first portion of our careers becoming experts in our particular specialties, but there is a lot more to ensuring the success of the enterprise than we see at the squadron or wing level," Colonel Engle said. "It's OK to look forward, think about your future, and plan your career. Ask yourself where you want to be in five, 10 and 20 years from now. Find out what you need to do to get there and do it."

Col. Greg Guillot, former air control wing commander, said Colonel Engle performed remarkably well in his time at Tinker.

"The Engles have been an important part of our wing's many successes over the past two years. Tom used his diverse and unique background in the U-2 and KC-135, as well as his tour on the Joint Staff, to improve our operations in the 552nd ACW. His leadership and fresh perspective will be missed. Courtney was a constant and selfless volunteer across the base, helping young Airmen and their families," he said. "We wish Tom, Courtney, and their sons the best of luck in retirement, and thank them for their outstanding service to our wing and Tinker."

552nd ACW Command Chief Master Sgt. Eddie Compton agreed.

"Colonel Engle always takes the time to listen and address the concerns of our wing members making all who talk to him his priority" he said. "Together, with Mrs. Engle, they have dedicated themselves to our wing's success. I hold a great deal of respect for what they have done for this organization."

Colonel Engle's retirement ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m., July 9 in the 552nd Operations Group auditorium with a reception to follow at the Tinker Club.