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Colonel James M. Swanik is Operations Group Commander for the 171st Air Refueling Wing, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, Coraopolis, Pa. He directs the activity of 275 personnel within the group; the 146th and 147th Air Refueling Squadrons, 171st Operations Support Squadron, 258th Air Traffic Control Squadron, and the 146th Weather Flight.

Col. Swanik received his commission in 1990 after graduating from Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He completed undergraduate pilot training at Reese AFB, Texas in 1991, and served there as an Instructor, Evaluator, and Functional Check Flight Pilot until the base closed in 1997.  He immediately joined the Pennsylvania Air National Guard as a KC-135E pilot.

Following numerous duties in the Operations Group as a planner, scheduler, and chief of training, Col. Swanik was selected to command the Operations Support Squadron in 2013.  Effective September 2018, he assumed command of the 171st Operations Group. The 171st is a “supertanker” Wing, operating 16 KC-135R/T models with a membership of about 1,200 Guard men and women supporting the missions of the Commonwealth and the U.S. Air Force.


1988 Bachelor of Arts Degree, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.

1991 Undergraduate Pilot Training

1996 Squadron Officer School in residence

2002 Air Command and Staff College by correspondence

2009 Air War College by correspondence

2015 Commander Development Course (ANGRC)

2015 Safety and Accident Investigation Board President Course

2017 Mobility Commander Tactics Course

2017 Nuclear Enterprise Orientation


1. October 1989–March 1990, Officer Training School, Lackland AFB, Texas

2. March 1990–March 1991, Undergraduate Pilot Training, Reese AFB, Texas

3. April 1991–September 1991, Pilot Instructor Training, Randolph AFB, Texas

4. September 1991–March 1997, T-38 Instructor Pilot, Safety Officer Reese AFB, Texas

5. April 1997–September 2018, Aircraft Commander / Instructor / Evaluator Pilot, 171st Operations Group, Coraopolis, Pa.

6. June 2006–January 2012, Chief of Training, 171st Operations Support Squadron, Coraopolis, Pa.

7. March 2013–September 2018, Commander, 171st Operations Support Squadron, Coraopolis, Pa.

8. September 2018–Present, Commander, 171st Operations Group, Coraopolis, Pa.  



Rating: Evaluator Pilot

Flight hours: More than 6,300 hours

Aircraft flown: KC-135E/R/T, T-37, T-38, AT-38B T-1A, F-15D

Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster

Air Medal

Aerial Achievement Medal

Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters

Meritorious Unit Award

Air Force Outstanding Unit with three oak leaf clusters

Combat Readiness Medal with eight oak leaf clusters

National Defense Service Medal with device

Kosovo Campaign Medal with device

Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal

Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with gold border

Air Force Longevity Service Award with four oak leaf clusters

Armed Forces Reserve Medal with "M" device

Small Arms Expert Marksmanship with device

AF Training Ribbon

NATO Medal


Second Lieutenant March 2, 1990

First Lieutenant March 2, 1992

Captain March 2, 1994

Major Nov. 24, 1999

Lieutenant Colonel Nov. 24, 2006

Colonel July 31, 2019

(Current as of August 2019)