Malmstrom welcomes new 341st MSG commander

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Dillon White
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office
Col. John Patricola assumed command of the 341st Mission Support Group July 1st after arriving from Arlington, Va., where he was the U.S. Strategic Command Net-centric Capabilities Portfolio Management Liaison Officer. 

The Harrington Park, N.J., native attended college after high school, but withdrew during his sophomore year. Upon arriving home, and informing his mother he had withdrawn from school, she replied, "That's great John, rent is $400." 

After several months of painting houses and other odd jobs, the 20 year old decided the military would be his best option. 

"I went to a recruiting office and saw the Air Force recruiter first, but it was a tough time for the military and the recruiter looked sloppy -- bushy moustache - feet were on his desk and he said he couldn't tell me what job I could have until I took a test, even in those days," Colonel Patricola said. "The next recruiting office was the Navy, but my twin brother had joined the Navy. He and I were very competitive, so I thought to myself 'I can't join the Navy.'" 

In the next office down the hall was the Marine recruiter. He asked me what I was interested in, and I just said I needed a job. 

"I still remember his name today," Colonel Patricola said. "No kidding, Staff Sgt. Jones."
The colonel took an entrance exam and made one of the top two scores the recruiter had ever seen. He was guaranteed a contract in the avionics maintenance career field, but had to wait. 

"I didn't want to wait four-and-a-half months," Colonel Patricola said. "I wanted to go [now], so I told him a week later I could not wait to go delayed entry." 

The recruiter told him if he entered the Marines on an open contract, they would make him one of two things, "a cook or a grunt." 

"He was extremely honest with me," he said. "When I got to boot camp, they retested everybody and I tested very well." 

In boot camp, the colonel was hand-picked for the crypto logic support career field and went on to be a manual Morse-code intercept operator, intercepting enemy communications. 

After his four year enlistment was up, the colonel left the Marine Corps to pursue a degree. 

"When money got tight my last year of school, I became a stay-at-home dad while my wife worked during the day," Colonel Patricola said. "I watched my son during the day and went to school at night while working as a security guard on weekends." 

After he graduated college from Rutgers University in 1985, he worked for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for two years auditing banks. In the back of his mind, he still thought of the military, and particularly the Air Force, as a possible career. 

"While in the Marines, I had worked with members of the Army, Navy and Air Force at Okinawa, and Field Station Kunia, Wahiawa, HI. I noticed the Airmen were always happier and the officers were always more visible. There was also respect between the officers and enlisted. I liked the way the Airmen were treated and educated. So the seed was always in the back of my mind," Colonel Patricola said. 

The colonel decided to talk to the Air Force recruiter who had advised him to finish his degree and apply for Officer Training School. He was accepted and became a lieutenant just short of his 29th birthday. 

His first duty assignment in 1988 was in the 390th Communications Operations Squadron at Offut Air Force Base, Neb. 

Since then, he has had numerous assignments including Minot AFB, N.D., Maxwell AFB, Ala., Yongsan Army Garrison, South Korea, Tinker AFB, Okla., Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Va. 

"My job at Yongsan was unique," he said. "I worked in the communications and computer systems directorate on the U.S. Forces Korea staff. I did everything from procuring leases for satellite bandwidth to working with contractors installing new classified telephone systems in support of the commander." 

The best part of the assignment was being able to live in Korea and work with dedicated and talented members of the Korean military, he said. 

Five years after leaving Yongsan, Colonel Patricola was selected to attend National War College at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. 

"Two highlights from my year at War College were getting to interact with the international officers who attended -- getting to know them and their world views was an incredible opportunity," he said. "The second was attending school with personnel from other government agencies like the CIA, FBI and Department of State. It is absolutely amazing to me how many talented civilians we have serving our nation." 

After attending War College and a two-year stint in Arlington, Va., Colonel Patricola was selected as the new 341st MSG commander. 

"I had been in Washington for five years between school and my jobs at the Joint Staff and STRATCOM, and we do important jobs in Washington, okay, but command is special, command is an honor, and command is a humbling experience," he said. 

The colonel said when he was driving down Goddard from Building 500 after a late night in the office, he couldn't believe he was the support group commander. 

"I can't tell you how good it feels to be responsible for the four outstanding squadrons that make up this group and being the primary representative for all those people that do such a great job on this base," the colonel said. "We have a tremendous amount of dedicated civilians, contractors and Airmen. What we do is critically important to the success of this wing's mission."