VCSAF makes stop at Columbus AFB to retire former PA chief
By Airman Hannah Bean, 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 01, 2019
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson visited Columbus Air Force Base Jan. 25 to officiate the retirement ceremony of Richard “Sonic” Johnson, the former 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs chief.
Wilson, a former BLAZE 1, reminisced about his time here as the wing commander from 2004-2006 and his working relationship with Johnson. He said over the years Johnson has provided countless advice and mentoring hours to many wing commanders, young pilots and many others who have had an opportunity to work with him.
“Not one, not two, not three, but 11 wing commanders have relied on Sonic over the years,” Wilson said. “We relied on him as it has become increasingly more important on how we communicate in this digital fishbowl era.”
With Columbus AFB being one of the busiest pilot training bases, Wilson said the wing required the very best support staff and that’s what Johnson was in the public affairs realm.
“All those wings commanders relied on him because they trusted him,” Wilson said. “They trusted him with fostering relationships. Relationships that communicate our mission and is able to speak in a language that we all can understand.”
Wilson went on to showcase the impact Johnson had on the base over the years as chief of public affairs.
Wilson noted that the Johnson had the tools and knowledge in hand to build a legacy that influences not only Airmen, but the community around it as well. One of those programs Johnson initiated that is still widely popular today is the Pilot Partner Program. The program helps connect pilots that are just starting Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training with the community. A community business typically sponsors a class.
“It might be what right looks like, and a model program of how you build both base and community relationship and make both of them better,” Wilson said.
Wilson added that Johnson’s ability to connect, build trust and establish relationships sets him apart from others and it’s been unmatched.
“When I look back at my time here, and Katrina struck while we were here, it was Sonic who wielded his rolodex of common sense to help rally all of us to help those in need the most,” Wilson said. “That’s when he stepped in and just did it. He did really amazing things.”
At the end of his speech Wilson thanked Johnson for all that he has done for tens of thousands of people and added that Columbus, Mississippi sets the bar for community relationships on how to do it right.
Upon receiving his retirement pin and the Outstanding Civilian Career Service Award, Johnson thanked all those in attendance, which included past commanders, wingman and members of the local. Johnson’s commitment to enhance relationships between the community and base has helped commanders and community leaders to connect and also learn from one another.
Johnson, who also served for more than 22 years as an active-duty Air Force pilot, said he enjoyed his time as the public affairs chief, a position he assumed in 2004. However, he said it was time that he invest time back into his family, who has also sacrificed so much for him during his active-duty and civil service careers.