AFSOC and Oklahoma Guard say farewell to longtime general and mentor

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kasey M. Phipps
  • 137th Special Operations Wing

WILL ROGERS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Okla. – Hundreds of Airmen gathered in two locations, including one room for overflow, to witness the retirement ceremony of Maj. Gen. Gregory L. Ferguson, Aug. 4, 2018 at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City – the place where his career started 36 years ago.

Ferguson, who has served as the Air National Guard Assistant to the Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), Hurlburt Field, Florida since 2015, started his career by enlisting at Will Rogers in 1982 and soon commissioning in 1984.

“The first time I was really assigned to do a job other than at Will Rogers was three years ago in 2015, which meant I was here (at Will Rogers) for 33 years before I had a job off the base,” recalled Ferguson. “No surprise, the people, the mission, the heritage and all the things that make this place as special as it is are absolutely the things you look back to.”

In his most recent position, Ferguson acted as liaison for Lt. Gen. Marshall B. Webb, the commander of AFSOC, which provides Air Force special operations forces for worldwide deployment and assignment to unified combatant commanders with approximately 19,000 active-duty, Reserve, Air National Guard and civilian professionals.

“When I think about Maj. Gen. Ferguson overall, it’s duty, it’s humble service and it’s extreme competence,” said Webb who was the presiding official for the ceremony. “He exudes what Air Commandos prize – being a quiet professional.”

Ferguson’s illustrious career as a command pilot with more than 5,000 flight hours and 106 combat missions earned him several awards including the Legion of Merit, three Meritorious Service Medals, an Air Medal and two Aerial Achievement Medals. In this time, he held the position of Assistant Adjutant General – Air, Oklahoma National Guard, and the former wing commander at Will Rogers.

As the 14th wing commander of the 137th Airlift Wing (now the 137th Special Operations Wing), Ferguson oversaw the Wing during the stressful and uncertain 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment.

“I can honestly say that he was the right leader at the right time with his genuine ability to make relationships, have a calming effect and his steadfastness,” said Col. Devin R. Wooden, the 16th and current 137th Special Operations Wing (137th SOW) commander. “He was very cognizant and very good to make sure we didn’t lose our identity as the 137th. I think this wing owes him a debt of gratitude that many don't understand.”

Throughout his nearly four-decade career, Ferguson experienced several other distinct and Guard-wide cultural shifts. He began in a post-Vietnam era, navigated a strategic reserve-focused Guard through the Cold War and helped transition the Wing to the present.

“It’s been so different these last 10 years since we lost the C-130s in 2007 to watch and be a part of the constant change as we became a fully operational guard unit that is deployed all the time,” said Ferguson. “To see what we’ve changed from to what we are today has been amazing. Our unit here at Will Rogers, will continue to be, I think, something like no other place can be.”

Though Ferguson said he will miss the missions and the pace of operations, it’s the people doing those missions that he will think of the most.

“Watching people be successful, hitting personal goals and get to a new level of serving … that’s what I’ll miss – being a part of their lives,” he said.

Wooden, who was still enlisted while Ferguson was a young lieutenant, said he still remembers when he approached Ferguson to ask about becoming a pilot.

“Right away the impression I got from then Lt. Ferguson was he's just a genuine human being,” recalled Wooden. “He just has the character to look you in the eye, never meet a stranger and always remember your name. He takes a genuine interest in anyone he has a conversation with, and that's something that has stuck with me about Greg our whole career together. Having the opportunity to work for him as a leader and as a mentor has just been an absolute joy. He is the epitome of what it means to be a humble leader, in every sense of the word.”

To an outsider, the many successes in Ferguson’s career could appear like luck, said Ferguson. However, he followed the advice of mentors and always kept working toward his goals.

“I think everyone has to decide what their short and long term goals are, and then make your own breaks,” he said. “Put yourself in a position to succeed and then be patient. In the beginning, my head was down in the books, I wanted to know the answer to every question that was asked. Take care of the technical aspect, and leadership can come down the line. Own what you can own at the time, and the rest of it will take care of itself.”

Ferguson finished by saying he appreciates all of the Airmen who were a part of his career –  enlisted, commissioned, new and retired. As the people and Airmen of AFSOC, the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard and the 137th SOW come and go, the sense of family never leaves.

Those that are new become part of the family, and those that change out stay a part of the family,” finished Ferguson.