Meet the 341st MW commander

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cortney Paxton
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

After more than 22 years climbing the security forces officer ranks and weaving in and out of nuclear-related positions, Col. Tom Wilcox rejoined Team Malmstrom to serve as the 341st Missile Wing's new commander.   

"I was completely humbled and honored to be chosen for this position," he said.

Wilcox visualized wearing a military uniform since he was young - starting in the sixth grade. He grew up watching his father serve 30 years in the U.S. Army and dreamed of one day closely following his father's footsteps. When it finally came time for him to serve his country, he was proactive and quickly applied for the Air Force Academy. When he wasn't picked up for the Academy, Wilcox stayed true to his dream and ended up joining the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Louisiana Tech University.

Wilcox graduated ROTC in 1992 with a business degree and was then sent to his first assignment as a flight leader in the missile field here at Malmstrom Air Force Base. Following three years here, he was sent to Osan Air Base, South Korea, where he served as the officer in charge of air base defense/security forces training. Since then, his career has taken him to various places, including Louisiana, Arizona, Virginia, Alabama, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and Wyoming. He also served a 365-day deployment in Baghdad, Iraq.

"When I was in Baghdad, I was the protection division chief for Multinational Force Iraq - their operations branch," the colonel said. "In addition to keeping all of the bases and forward operating locations safe... and providing guidance on that, we also performed secret service-type functions for the top seven Iraqi officials. We were escorts [to] the prime minister, the president, the two vice presidents, the two prior prime ministers and the speaker of the council of representatives - any time they moved, we were responsible for securing them across Iraq.  It was great working that mission - it was outside the wire in the red zone and across the country. While I was there, [then] President [George] Bush flew over and we secured him, and [then] Vice President [Dick] Cheney also flew over - he was the first top U.S. government official that we took into the red zone. We took him from the International Zone over to the president's house."

Wilcox was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his time deployed to Iraq and he received the Legion of Merit for his work as the 90th Security Forces Group commander at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.

"Command is tough, but rewarding. because you're on a team doing the mission," he said. "It was personally rewarding to serve two years as a squadron commander and then two years as a group commander."


As a commander, Wilcox has three priorities - priorities that he has led by his entire Air Force career. His priorities, in order, are precision combat capability, Airmen and families, and modernization. Along the lines of his priorities, the colonel has three main short-term goals to work on for the wing.


"The wing has had a lot going on in the last eight days - and really in the last 60 days," he said. "We've got to focus on the basics, normalize operations and move forward as a team.  Safe, secure and effective mission continuation is my number one goal right now. Number two is a dignified and respectful transition of both inbound and outbound personnel. We've got some teammates that are leaving us unexpectedly and we've got some teammates that are coming in unexpectedly. My last one is teamwork. We can only move forward as a team.  A lot of great things occur at Malmstrom everyday - 4,000 people keep the nation safe and support our mission and community, and we do it through teamwork.  We can't be fractured."


Teamwork is something the colonel has emphasized his entire career, but it was during an assignment at Washington, D.C., working for the assistant secretary of defense that he learned just how valuable teamwork is.


"I worked in the nuclear matters office and I was responsible for nuclear safety, security and response," he said. "My duties involved all the services, our interagency partners and our allies.   You really have to understand and work with folks to get things done in that environment - relationships really do matter. If you treat people with respect, work toward a common goal, empower them to do their job and get out of their way, the team will get it done.


"I think it teaches you how to lead through your personality and your team-building skills," he continued. "You have to approach problems from a team perspective, and I've used that in my command positions ever since. You get a lot more with honey than you do with salt."


Wilcox is motivated to move Malmstrom forward as a team, and doing that means building relationships, knowing his people and growing together. With such a vast missile complex and variety of specialties on base, getting to know the team will be a continuous effort. 


"I think my biggest challenge is going to be learning 4,000 people," he said. "There are 4,000 people in this wing, plus a ton of great community supporters. So how do I learn them on a personal level? With 4,000 people, that's tough. I just have to get out of the office and go do it."


Wilcox and his wife, Marian, along with four children - Erik, 19; Braden, 17; Madeline, 9, and Kenleigh, 3 months - joined Team Malmstrom (family will join in June) with open arms, and as the new commander of Wing One, Wilcox urges each Airman to flourish in their specific areas by being the expert in their job.

  "I think the biggest things to know about me are that I'm a team player, I'm motivated to be here and I'm not an expert in all areas," he said. "I need folks to do their job - to own it and do it. I'm empowering you as the expert. I look forward to working with everybody, and I'm glad to be back."