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‘Don’t be like me.’ 442d Fighter Wing commander bids farewell

A man smiles from the cockpit of an A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft while holding a helmet.

Brig. Gen. Mike Schultz, the 442d Fighter Wing commander, removes his helmet after his final A-10 flight October 22, 2021, on Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Schultz is moving on to be the Air Force Reserve Command Inspector General.

An A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft flies over the sun in a blue sky. Faint vapor trails can be seen coming from its wingtips.

Brig. Gen. Mike Schultz, the 442d Fighter Wing commander, low-passes over the flight line at the end of his final A-10 flight October 22, 2021, on Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Schultz is moving on to be the Air Force Reserve Command Inspector General.

A man in a green flight suit carrying a black backpack shakes the hand of a man in a brown coat over blue overalls next to an A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft.

Brig. Gen. Mike Schultz, the 442d Fighter Wing commander, shakes the hand of Tech. Sgt. Kevin Balandron, the dedicated crew chief for his final A-10 flight October 22, 2021, on Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Schultz is moving on to be the Air Force Reserve Command Inspector General.

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --

“I think my last flight in the A-10 was Friday,” Brigadier General Mike Schultz, the 442d Fighter Wing commander, said Oct. 25, 2021 – the Monday after his “fini” flight at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

After two years at the helm, Schultz will be leaving the wing to serve as the Air Force Reserve Command Inspector General at Robins AFB, Georgia.

“I think the Chief of the Air Force Reserve wanted a seasoned wing commander in the seat in order to set a new direction for the IG,” he said. “I believe he wants his IG to be credible as well as helpful to AFRC wings. I plan to do exactly that.”

Schultz said he feels the highlight of his time as wing commander was facing the challenge of novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 while maintaining the wing’s readiness for two major deployments.

“We ensured we did our job and did not let fear, anxiety, or other messaging or narrative pull us off track,” he said.

Schultz said he doesn’t know what comes next regarding his career – whether that’s looking for another position after serving the IG or retirement – but he feels he’s accomplished everything he set out to do initially. “My wife has been very supportive of what I do and encouraged me to continue serving up to this point,” he said. “Whatever path is chosen, we will choose it together!”

Schultz is scheduled to be succeeded by Col. Stephen Nester, a former 442 FW vice wing commander who is returning to the wing after serving as an Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the commander of Pacific Air Forces.

“It has truly been an honor and a privilege to have worked with the members of this wing once again,” he said. “This has been an exceedingly challenging 2 years – I’m glad I was here with the Heartland Warriors as this would have been very hard to endure in other parts of the country. Every single one of us is important – a lesson I think we are about to relearn. Each of us brings individual talents and experience to make the entire organization better.

“This wing has done a great job of recruiting and retaining talented folks for many years,” Schultz said, “as evidenced by the many legacies we have serving. I hope families will continue serving together in this wing for many years to come. Col. Nester is one of those legacies and will do an outstanding job fighting for this wing and its members!”

Aside from a 2-year tour at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Schultz has been a unit-level reservist for 15 years, and was an active-duty member for 15 years before that, having started his career in 1991.

“I knew what I wanted to do from a very young age and I got to do what I always wanted.” He also provided a word of caution. “Do not assign value only in the job that you do – one day the job will be gone. It is a hard lesson that I began trying to understand a couple of years ago. Trying to rewire your brain is difficult so do it earlier than I did – don’t be like me.”