An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Service worthy of a legacy

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Noah J. Tancer
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Col. Jeff Van Dootingh, the commander of the 910th Airlift Wing, stood tall atop his retirement ceremony stage, May 6, 2023, in front of friends, family, and Airmen gathered in a hangar at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, to celebrate his 38 years of military service, approximately 20 of which he spent assigned to the 910th AW. Earlier that same day, Van Dootingh flew his “fini-flight” a time-honored tradition of taking one last flight as an Air Force aircrew member before being drenched with water and champagne by friends and family as the honoree exits the aircraft.

Col. Van Dootingh commissioned in 1985 upon graduation from the United States Air Force Academy, serving over six years of active duty as an instructor navigator and flight safety officer before joining the Air Force Reserve in 1991 as an evaluation navigator with the 757th Airlift Squadron, Youngstown ARS.

Seventeen years later in 2008, Van Dootingh left Youngstown ARS to hone his leadership before returning in 2021 to lead the 910th AW through the coronavirus outbreak, personnel hiring freeze and C-130H Hercules fleet grounding.

“The Airmen I’ve served with have just been incredible, your friendship and what you do for this country I’m forever grateful,” said Van Dootingh. “My biggest fear was that I would not be worthy of you. I mean you’ve raised your hand and sworn to give your life for your country. Who does that, not many and that’s why I came to work every day trying to do my best because I felt my own debt to you and I hope I didn’t fall short in that.”

Refusing to give in to the troubles of the time the 910th AW under Van Dootingh’s command was one of Air Force Reserve Command’s top three wings for 10 consecutive months on Individual Medical Readiness, won the 22nd Air Force Battle Born Trophy two years in a row, implemented the first AFRC combined Unit Inspection and Readiness Exercise with an effective rating in all major graded areas, and deployed over 400 personnel in support of numerous Combatant Commanders and United States Northern Command deployments.

It was also under Van Dootingh’s leadership that Youngstown ARS was selected by the Secretary of the Air Force as the preferred location for eight new C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, slated to replace the wing’s aging C-130H Hercules fleet. The size of the crowd packed into the hangar displayed the wide approval of his impact.

Van Dootingh was awarded the Legion of Merit, his retirement certificate and a presidential certificate of appreciation by Brig Gen. Bill Whittenberger, the mobilization assistant to the commander of the Air Force Special Operations Command. Whittenberger presided over the ceremony and reflected on the time the two of them served together for 14 years at Youngstown ARS between 1994 and 2008.

“What can you say when your best friend, teacher, coach, cheerleader, part-time psychiatrist, friend and family is hanging up his flight suit for the last time,” said Whittenberger. “Thank you for always being there for us, you were everywhere, no kidding Antarctica included. You have always happily done so much for all of us, your career emulates what every Airman wants to do.”

The Airmen of the 910th Airlift Wing would like to thank Col. Jeff Van Dootingh for his many years of service and leadership. Farewell and good luck in your retirement. May you visit Youngstown Air Reserve Station often, from all of us at your first and last home within the Air Force Reserve.