AF Academy’s ‘host wing’ commander concentrates on community, family

  • Published
  • By Ray Bowden
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- A top commander at the Air Force Academy said the base couldn’t exist without the 10th Air Base Wing.

“The 10th ABW does its job as the Academy’s host wing so our mission partners can do theirs,” said Col. Brian Hartless, who has commanded the wing – “Team Ten,” as he and his staff call it – since June.

That might be a strong opinion, but it’s shared by the Academy’s superintendent, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria.

“When I consider the vast responsibilities the wing balances on a daily basis and how their efforts directly relate to cadets walking across that graduation stage with their diplomas, I can’t get around the fact that our Academy could not exist without the 10th ABW,” Silveria said.

Everything the 10th ABW does is to serve the Air Force’s only academy, Hartless said. He and the more-than 3,000 service members and civilians he commands are responsible for the base’s medical services, readiness, security, civil engineering, community service and more.

“The strategic importance of the Academy is to graduate about 1,000 cadets each year and we recognize that our mission helps shape the entire cadet experience,” he said. “Team Ten’ is a cohesive team of teams, at the wing level and with our mission partners. Our day-to-day accomplishments have a strategic effect. What may seem small is a huge step in one cadet’s journey to graduation.”

Hartless is equally enthusiastic talking about the Academy’s off-base community.

“We’re very proud of our relationship with the Front Range community and constantly building on those relationships.”

Whether teaming up with the City of Colorado Springs to inform the public that renovations on the Cadet Chapel – Colorado’s most-visited man made building – have closed the chapel through 2023, or working through the shared concern of encroachment, Hartless said the interests of the city are his interests.

“Every base has challenges dealing with development,” he said. “The question is, ‘How do we help mitigate those concerns in a way that allows us to fulfill our mission?’ We have to be engaged. The key is working with city developers and arriving at a mutually beneficial resolution.”

Hartless said several large-scale construction projects are ongoing today or have been scheduled to better serve to cadets, staff and faculty, and the Academy’s more than 1 million annual visitors.

Those projects include the long-needed repairs to the Cadet Chapel and Clune Arena, and a renovation of the Academy’s Preparatory School.

 Never Seems Like Work

Hartless is an engineer by trade who came to the wing from the Pentagon, where he was the senior military assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Energy and Environment. He’s a third-generation Air Force officer, born into a military family at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. His father, a retired lieutenant colonel, was a Vietnam era pilot and his grandfather, also a retired lieutenant colonel, was an enlisted Airmen at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor. The colonel received his commission in 1996 through the Virginia Military Institute’s ROTC program.

The colonel said his motivation to make the Air Force a career became solid after the 9/11 attack.

“I thought, ‘There is no way I’m getting out now,’” he said.

Since then, the Air Force has become his home, he said.

“No where else will you find the same quality of people,” he said. “Today’s Airmen are as good as it gets. Because of them, my military service has never seemed like work.”

Silveria may have selected Hartless for the job of 10th ABW commander, but Hartless also had the support of his previous boss, Brig. Gen. Richard Moore, Air Force Plans and Programs’ chief of staff.

“The Hartless family is a perfect fit for the complex and dynamic Academy environment,” Moore said. “Brian’s skills and aptitude for leadership are sure to shine brightly.”

As much as he treasures the Air Force, the service members and civilians he works with, Hartless said he owes his successful career to the sacrifice of his family – his wife of 16 years, Erin, son Ben, 14, and daughter Caroline, 9.

“I’m all about my family,” he said. “My family is as invested in this Air Force journey as I am. They’ve stuck with me through deployments, moves and tough times. Their support is the reason I’m able to do what I do. I get my resilience through my family.”

At the end of the day, Hartless said, he’s comfortable with much of the general public not being aware of the wing.

“I’m very comfortable with the wing being behind the scenes,” he said. “We know how our mission of ‘forging generations of leaders through world-class medical and mission support’ effects cadets and ultimately, the Air Force.”