Article and Photos by Elijah Robinson
Under one wing, under one flag, under new management.
Col. Joseph Contino assumed command of the 914th Air Refueling Wing – leading 1,600 military and a civilian member force – at a change of command ceremony at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on July 7.
Contino is moving up from his operations group commander role. He previously served at the Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base near Columbus, Ohio, and Youngstown Air Reserve Station. He was 13 when he became an Air Force cadet, and has more than 475 hours of combat time serving in U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan, Croatia and Iraq.
Describing initial feelings with stepping into the role after accepting the offer, Contino likened the transition to going from a math teacher to the new school principal.
“When you just have to worry about one subject, and one lesson plan, you kind of plan out your day kind of easy,” he said. “But when you have to worry about everybody’s schedule and lesson plan, I don’t want to say overwhelming, but it can be overwhelming.”
In his time as leader Contino, said he hopes to successfully address what he sees as the charter being “asleep at the wheel.”
“The military is … partialed and petitioned out like any other entity in the military,” he said. “I want to make sure that we are important and we’re different (from) those other entities. We’re different (from) those other departments. We’re one of the only things that are actually mentioned in the Constitution.”
On how to carry out this vision, Contino explained he wants to continue exercises where the base can project nuclear force locally, taking from a previous exercise he did with Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York, showcasing the 914’s ability to run a nuclear mission.
“Not only do our Congress men and women take notice of that, but so do our peer adversaries,” he said. “They know where every one of these tankers are parked, probably, (on a) 24/7, 365 basis.”
Brig. Gen. D. Scott Durham, left, passes the Air Force flag over to Col. Joseph Contino as he assumes command of the 914th Air Refueling Wing.
Contino is taking over for Col. Lara Morrison, who will become the Director of the Mobility Operations Division at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, working within the 618th Air Operations Center, an arm of the air mobility command that moves on behalf of the United States transportation command.
Illinois is home for Morrison. She’s not only returning to her former station, but plans to get married there in October.
“It was time to go home,” she said. “I had a wonderful job opportunity that came very unexpectedly, and we decided we were going to grab it and go home. I’m very sorry to leave, because this organization and this community is truly, truly amazing.”
Morrison was the first woman to hold the position of commander, and coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, she oversaw construction of a new entrance gate along Lockport Road, replacement of fuel lines for KC-135s, and a new combined operations alert facility.