Meet Arizona's next air refueling wing commander

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Gabe Johnson
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing
The men and women of the Arizona Air National Guard's 161st Air Refueling Wing will welcome their new commander during a change of command ceremony scheduled for 10:30 a.m., Dec. 5, at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base.

Col. Tupper Daniels will serve as the KC-135 Stratotanker unit's 14th commanding officer since its inauguration in 1946. He will be responsible for more than 800 Airmen, eight tanker aircraft and the wing's diverse set of state and federal missions.

"I am extremely excited, thrilled and honored to become a part of this fantastic team. I couldn't be happier," said Daniels who currently leads the Arizona Air National Guard's 214th Reconnaissance Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. "The 161st's outstanding reputation, and that of its people, is unsurpassed. I'm eager to learn all I can about the mission, and to get to know the Airmen who make it happen."

After graduating from Montana State University and earning a commission through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, Daniels flew F-16 Fighting Falcons and T-38 Talons on active duty for 10 years.  In 2000, he joined the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Wing headquartered at Tucson International Airport where he could continue his military career while enjoying stability and community ties with his family.

During 15 years of full-time service at the 162nd, he amassed a broad range of experience while training F-16 pilots from U.S. and partner nation air forces. Many of those years he taught pilots from the United Arab Emirates to fly the F-16E Desert Falcon, or Block 60 - the most advanced F-16 ever built.

He ventured back and forth between the 162nd's F-16 training and its MQ-1B Predator missions. He ultimately commanded a reconnaissance squadron and then an F-16 aircraft maintenance squadron before moving on to group-level command in 2014.

According to the colonel, the tanker, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft in the state are clearly different, but the Airmen who fly, maintain, and support them share an important commonality - global influence.

"We in the Arizona Air National Guard make a tremendous impact on our nation's security objectives," said Daniels. "Every one of our Airmen needs to know that they are making a difference. I've seen it first hand through the international relationships built through F-16 training. I've seen it with the Predator when we've protected American service members in harm's way overseas. And we're making a difference through our many deployments and air refueling operations around the world."

Daniels said he doesn't spend much time looking back. Instead he looks forward with ambitious goals for the 161st and its people.

"I want to ensure our Airmen are preparing themselves and others to advance in their careers. At all levels - from the most junior Airman to our senior leaders - everyone should participate in professional development, and they should help others do the same," he said.

"Our unit's foundation should always be rooted in the Air Force core values. Beyond that, I always focus on creating an environment where are people are treated fairly and with respect. We should always mentor our people and lead by example."

His vision is to secure long-term viability and relevance for the wing by gaining new aircraft; four additional KC-135s at first, and eventually a fleet of KC-46A Pegasus aircraft - the Air Force's next generation tanker.

"We will actively pursue these goals that are in our wing's, state and nation's best interest. We will find those areas where we can improve and position ourselves for growth," said Daniels.

To realize that vision, the colonel said his duty will be to engage with outside agencies - state headquarters, elected leaders, community leaders, the National Guard Bureau, the Air Force and many others.

"The leadership in our wing will continue to take care of our Airmen, manage our resources, and ensure mission success through daily operations," he said. "I will also largely focus on external engagement, and as a team, we'll make sure the 161st Air Refueling Wing has a bright future."

Daniels and his wife Joanna, met in Phoenix while he attended F-16 flight training at Luke Air Force Base. They've been married for 21 years and have a 16-year-old son.

"We know the Copperheads are a close-knit community. Joanna is extremely excited to be a part of this community and, just like me, she can't wait to meet our fellow wing members and families."