SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – The career of Col. Kenyon K. Bell came full circle June 21, 2019, as he took command of the training wing under which he learned his craft as an aircraft maintenance officer roughly 24 years ago.
Bell took command of the 82nd Training Wing, the largest and most diverse technical training installation in the Air Force, during a change of command ceremony here. Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, 2nd Air Force commander, officiated the ceremony.
The colonel, who most recently was commander of the 72nd Air Base Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, said he is excited to be back where his career began, a place where many things have changed except for the searing and humid North Texas heat. He lauded the missions of Sheppard – enlisted and commissioned officer training at the 82nd TRW and undergraduate pilot training at the 80th Flying Training Wing – as the premier gateway for the Air Force, NATO and international partners.
“To the men and women of the 82nd Training Wing and Team Sheppard, if I haven’t told you yet, I’m excited to join you,” he said. “I will work tirelessly to know your business, advance our business and support our efforts. Every day we build a foundation upon which our nation depends on by nurturing and growing our most precious resource – the youth of our nation.”
Bell has served in leadership and staff positions at many levels of the Air Force, having experienced the end product Sheppard’s training missions sends to the field. In deployed and home station environments, he said he has seen quality Airmen successfully fulfill the mission before then.
“When people are depending on an aircraft to do a certain thing, it is very important that we have trained technicians that know what they’re doing, because not only are troops on the ground, in a lot of cases, depending on that aircraft to be able to perform at that capability, but the pilot behind that aircraft is also depending that that aircraft will be able to do what it’s supposed to do,” he said. “So, it’s tremendously important that we get it right here so that when folks go out into the field, that airplane can do exactly what it’s supposed to do for our nation.”
Leahy applauded the successes of the 82nd TRW and Sheppard under the leadership of Jolly, citing more than 125,000 Air Force and international graduates during his tenure, addressing an aircraft maintainer shortage gap of roughly 5,000, and having a direct effect on the operations tempo down range. That, he said, lets any adversary in the world know that the Air Force is “watching and ready.”
Leahy said Jolly was also part of an effort to ensure the viability of Sheppard’s existing and possible future training missions by addressing encroachment concerns. The departing wing commander also continued the “legendary relationship” the base has with surrounding community partners, one that is the envy of the Air Force.
The 82nd TRW and Sheppard won’t miss a beat under the leadership of Bell, he intimated, listing accomplishments across the Columbia, South Carolina, native’s record. He said Bell’s merits as an officer are proven by his previous performance.
“Kenyon comes to us with a record few can match,” Leahy said. “He is supremely qualified to lead this wing.”
Jolly, who departs almost two years and three months to the day after taking command in March 2017, recalled the first time he arrived at Sheppard during a visit to meet with his predecessor to begin the transition process. He was greeted by now-Senior Airman Janine Casey, an 82nd Security Forces Squadron defender working at one of the gates, with what he said was the sharpest salute he had received in some time.
“First impressions are lasting impressions,” he said. “That first impression told me this is going to be good. It’s going to be great to be here at Sheppard. I have not been disappointed.”
He said the mission of Sheppard is to train, develop and inspire Airmen, but it is he who is leaving inspired, specifically by an Airman who was homeless before enlisting to serve and help his family, and an Airman who began his career as a member of the enlisted corps, recently commissioned and will soon begin pilot training.
“We train hard. We do everything we can to develop you. And one of the most difficult challenges is inspiring you,” he said. “But I have to tell you, I’m inspired by you.”
Jolly will next serve at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, as director of Logistics, Installations and Mission Support at Headquarters United States Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa.