Col. Tom McElhinney is the Vice Wing Commander of the 914th Air Refueling Wing, Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, New York. The station is strategically located on Western New York’s Canadian border between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. There, the 914 ARW is home to eight KC-135 aircraft and is comprised of three groups, 12 squadrons and is host to approximately 3,000 personnel. Col. McElhinney assists with the overall success of the wing’s mission to organize, train and equip rapid global mobility forces for the theater or Joint Force commander.
The colonel entered the Air Force in 1996 through the United States Air Force Academy with a degree in management. He’s a distinguished graduate of the Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training in the T-34 at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Florida. He completed pilot training in the T-38 at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and was selected to fly the F-16, where he qualified as an F-16 flight lead, mission commander and instructor pilot. During his two assignments in the F-16, he served as the wing chief of combat employment, wing electronic combat pilot, accumulated over 30 combat hours in support of OPERATION SOUTHERN WATCH, and accomplished alert missions in support of OPERATION NOBLE EAGLE.
Col. McElhinney transitioned to the T-38 in 2003 where he served as a squadron training officer, T-38C flight examiner, student flight commander and check flight commander. He was the 14th Flying Training Wing Instructor of the Year in 2004. He converted to the Air Force Reserve in 2006 and continued to teach in the T-38 as both a traditional and Active Guard Reservist. He then served as chief of squadron scheduling, T-38 flight commander, assistant director of operations, director of operations and commander for the 43rd Flying Training Squadron at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Prior to his current position, the colonel was the first reservist to serve as the 14th Operations Group Commander at Columbus AFB.
Col. McElhinney is also a civilian airline pilot and has accumulated over 3,200 flight hours in the B737, B747 and B767. The colonel is a command pilot with more than 6,600 total flight hours.
1996 Bachelor of Science, Management, United States Air Force Academy, Colo.
1998 Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training, Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla., Vance Air Force Base, Okla.
2001 Squadron Officer School, Distinguished Graduate, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
2009 Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Ala., by correspondence
2017 Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Ala., by correspondence
2019 Masters of Military Operational Art and Science, Air Command and Staff College, Air University, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
- June 1996 – October 1996, Learning Skills Instructor, United States Air Force Academy, Colo.
- November 1996 – August 1997, Student, Joint Primary Flight Training, Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla.
- August 1997 – May 1998, Student, Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training, Vance AFB, Okla.
- May 1998 – April 1999, Student, Basic Operational Training Course F-16C/D, Luke AFB, Ariz.
- April 1999 – December 2001, Assistant Chief of Standards and Evaluations, Assistant Chief of Programming, F-16 Instructor Pilot, 77th Fighter Squadron, Shaw AFB, S.C.
- January 2002 – February 2003, 8th Fighter Wing Electronic Combat Pilot, Chief of Combat Employment, 8th Operations Support Squadron, Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea
- February 2003 – June 2006, T-38C Instructor Pilot, T-38C Flight Examiner, Chief of Training, Student Flight Commander, Check Flight Commander, 50th Flying Training Squadron, Columbus AFB, Miss.
- June 2006 – August 2008, Traditional Reservist, T-38C Instructor Pilot, 43rd Flying Training Squadron, Columbus AFB, Miss.
- August 2008 – August 2012, Active Guard Reserve, T-38C Instructor Pilot, T-38C Flight Examiner, Section Chief, Flight Operations Officer, Flight Commander, 43rd Flying Training Squadron, Columbus AFB, Miss.
- August 2012 – October 2015, Traditional Reservist, T-38C Instructor Pilot, 43rd Flying Training Squadron, Columbus, AFB, Miss.
- October 2015 – April 2016, Assistant Director of Operations, 43rd Flying Training Squadron, Columbus AFB, Miss.
- April 2016 – April 2018, Director of Operations, 43rd Flying Training Squadron, Columbus AFB, Miss.
- April 2018 – December 2019, Commander, 43rd Flying Training Squadron, Columbus AFB, Miss.
- January 2020 – July 2020, Commander, 14th Operations Group, Columbus AFB, Miss.
- July 2020 – February 2021, Deputy Commander, 14th Mission Support Group, Columbus AFB, Miss.
- October 2020 – February 2021, Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the Commander, 14th Operations Group, Columbus AFB, Miss.
- February 2021 -- Present, Vice Wing Commander, 914th Air Refueling Wing, Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, N.Y.
Rating: Command Pilot
Flight hours: 6,600
Aircraft flown: T-1, T-6, T-34, T-37, T-38A/B/C, F-16C/D, B737, B757, B767
MAJOR AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Meritorious Service Medal with five oak leaf clusters
Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster
Air Force Achievement Medal
Aerial Achievement Medal
1997 Distinguished Graduate, TRAWING 5 Commodore’s List
1998 Class 98-09 Air Education Training Command T-38 Flying Training Award
2001 Distinguished Graduate, Squadron Officer School
2004 14th Flying Training Wing Instructor Pilot of the Year
(Current as of February 2021)