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Leaders Worth Following

  • Published
  • By Air Force Staff Sgt. Bryan Hoover
  • 171st Air Refueling Wing

The Pennsylvania Air National Guard 171st Air Refueling Wing plays a vital role in the global Air Force mission. The “Superwing” is home to 16 KC-135 “Stratotanker” aircraft, which support aerial refueling missions almost daily. Behind each aircraft is a force of guardsmen with all kinds of missions besides flying. For example, aircraft maintenance, providing medical support, preparing meals, and maintaining the infrastructure of the installation are just some of the jobs that keep the base running. The Civil Engineer Squadron is the organization responsible for maintaining and updating that infrastructure used by every member within the wing.

Air Force civil engineers have widespread skillsets which include electrical, power production, plumbing, HVAC, carpentry, surveying and drafting, operations management, and heavy equipment operation, such as moving the earth or doing concrete work. CES is also responsible for snow removal, fire and emergency services as well as all emergency management. To lead this diverse team of careers, the 171st has assigned Maj. Jeremy Ketter as the base civil engineer and Capt. Matthew Saccone as the deputy base civil engineer. The two work together, but their time apart is what has truly set an example worth following.

As the CES commander, Ketter leads 91 guardsmen and nine state employees. The majority of the CES are drill status guardsmen, which means they mostly meet one weekend a month with an additional two weeks a year for training. Ketter serves as the manager behind some very important projects that can span over many years. For example, the base’s hangar that is under construction has been an ongoing project since 2013 due to planning and design.  It is the largest PAANG construction project since 2003.  The dual aircraft hangar which was originally built in the early 1950’s, is receiving important, modernization updates resulting in millions of dollars of renovation. 

Months into the start of the project, Ketter deployed to the United States Central Command. He continued to advised the management of the hangar project while he was 7,000 miles away. Saccone continued the mission in Pittsburgh and made sure nothing fell to the wayside. Saccone is the primary project manager for the hangar renovations. The two, conjoined buildings received an exterior makeover in 2012, but this project is a complete remodel of the interior. The completed project will bring the nearly 126,000-square-foot facility in compliance with building and life safety codes, which includes adding an elevator to comply with the Architectural Barriers Act.

While Saccone managed the CES at the 171st ARW, Ketter managed a very different mission in CENTCOM. He supported 220 airmen spread out across eight countries.  A team of 60 Air Force and U.S. Army Engineers completed an $8 million dollar construction project, which happened to be the Department of Defense’s number one infrastructure priority in Afghanistan. Most importantly, while Ketter was the director of operations for the 577th Expeditionary Prime Beef Squadron, the unit kept a $2.8 billion dollar project in Kuwait on track. The overall scope included four, individual projects to relocate 13 facilities.

Shortly after Ketter’s return to the 171st, Saccone deployed to Lithuania with guardsmen from multiple bases. He was responsible for managing the group that constructed an air-to-ground firing range, the Kazys Veverskis Training Area. His efforts were recognized by the commandant of the training area in the form of the Lithuanian Armed Forces Medal for Distinction.

In 2019, Ketter was awarded the Major General L. Dean Fox Award for his work during the previous year, which included his managerial accomplishments at the 171st and his contributions to the global mission during his deployment to CENTCOM. This award is only given to one CES officer per major command between the ranks of major and colonel, making Ketter the sole recipient during 2019 for the ANG.

Engineers will always tie up their boots, grab their hardhats, and get to work when there is work to do. It’s in the blood of an engineer to get the job done no matter what comes up or who is in charge; however, finishing the job is much easier when the person giving commands is a leader worth following. Fortunately, the 171st has two stellar, award-winning, and highly productive officers leading one of the most diverse squadrons in all of the U.S. Air Force.