Malmstrom welcomes new vice wing commander

  • Published
  • By Valerie Mullett
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office
Air Force blue runs through his veins and he says there hasn't been a day in his life he wasn't a part of the Air Force. His career has been a mixed bag of missile, space and leadership roles, with opportunities at higher education woven in. He is happy to return to the Northern tier and happier to return to missiles. 

Born at Tachikawa Air Force Base, Japan, his father retired in 1974 as a chief master sergeant first sergeant - something the new vice commander said he has always been inspired by, even to this day. Entering the military himself through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program in 1986 after graduating from North Carolina State University, his first military memory also remains his fondest. 

"My father rendered me my first salute and I gave him my coin. It was a very special moment for us both," the newest member of the wing leadership said. 

Ten assignments following that memorable first active-duty Air Force moment, the seasoned missileer and space operations officer has joined Team Malmstrom. 

Col. Anthony Cotton arrived here July 24 from Fort Belvoir, Va., where he served for 15 months as the Commander of the Space Operations Group, Aerospace Data Facility-East. In seven of the 10 assignments prior to that one, three others were space related, three were missile related and one was intelligence related. The remainder were schooling. 

This is not a typical background for most previous vice commanders. However, his respect for the missile mission is more than typical. 

"What's interesting about being a missileer going into a space assignment is that in the missile business, you possess operational discipline," Colonel Cotton said. "That discipline becomes the base of your leadership toolkit. When I departed 3901st SMES in 1993, I was able to grab my toolkit and utilize its content for all my future assignments." 

"The only reason I became a squadron commander and deputy operations group commander was because of what I learned as a missileer. Period. Dot." 

Besides his passion for the mission, the self-proclaimed car enthusiast is excited about being back in the Northern tier. 

"If you were to look at my biography, you'd probably think that Patrick (AFB in Florida) would have been my favorite assignment," the father of two young adults said. 

He admits he had an awesome time at Patrick because he was a squadron commander there. He also thoroughly enjoyed his time in Colorado and California. But he does have a favorite assignment. 

"Actually, Minot was my favorite - so far," he said with a smile. 

Minot was the colonel's first assignment from April 1988 to July 1991. It is where he met his wife, Marsha, and where they made some of their closest friends, whom they still keep in contact with today. 

"It's what you take away with you from being at a Northern tier base that stays with you," he said. "The camaraderie that you get is unlike anything else." 

Those small-town feelings all came back to him when he found out he was coming to Malmstrom. 

"I have already seen it in the three weeks I have been here," Colonel Cotton said. "The association with the community is different, the linkage with co-workers is different. 

When I drove through the gate and saw the facilities and the community, I thought 'Yeah - this is going to be fun.' I am excited to be here and get to work." 

When he isn't at work, the colonel likes to play racquetball and hopes to learn a new sport - well known in these parts - fly fishing. 

"I used to cast fish with my dad but haven't had the opportunity to use my gear in quite some time," Colonel Cotton said. "I plan to dust it off and give it a try again. But I definitely want to learn to fly fish as well." 

While at work, though, the new vice commander's goals are to articulate Col. Fortney's goals and help him as a fellow team member in accomplishing those goals. He does have some messages and beliefs of his own to share with Malmstrom's Airmen: 

 Continue to work hard; 

 Understand why you have to work hard; 

 Be proud of what you do; 

 Understand the importance of your job; and 

 Realize you are important and that the mission we do is extremely important. 

"Coming back to the missile business is like coming back home. Thank you, Team Malmstrom, for the extremely warm welcome when I arrived. I can tell you are an incredible family and I am glad to be here," Colonel Cotton said.