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By Tech. Sgt. Brigette Waltermire
137th Special Operations Wing
Nearly 1,200 Airmen gathered for a change of command ceremony at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City June 3, 2023.
Air Force Special Operations Command Airmen with the 137th Special Operations Wing stood in formation alongside Air Combat Command Airmen with the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron and 205th Engineering and Installation Squadron, as well as Air Mobility Command Airmen with the 137th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.
“Every unit on base makes up what I see as the 137th family,” said Col. Christopher Gries, 137th SOW outgoing commander. “My oldest son has joined here, and this is the unit I have spent the most time with in the military. I trust it has put him on an amazing path because of the way it molded me as a leader.”
He passed the 137th SOW guidon to Col. Jason Davis during the ceremony, handing over the authorities and responsibilities of the wing.
Gries did not know he would be a wing commander when he first enlisted in the active duty Air Force in 1993. He became a tactical air control party specialist for five years before joining the Washington Air National Guard and going to college. He worked to get his private pilot’s license and finish college, then commissioned with the Idaho ANG to fly C-130H Hercules aircraft in 2002.
“One of my bosses said when I commissioned that you’re not moving up, you’re taking a new path and starting over,” Gries reflected.
He joined the Arizona ANG in 2009 and flew the RC-26B until 2012, after which he became the director of operations for the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron with the Oklahoma ANG.
Gries said becoming commander for the 146th ASOS from 2015-2017 was a special milestone in his career.
“Coming in as an airman basic and then ending up in charge of a squadron of a career field I grew up in while enlisted meant a lot to me,” he said.
He continued to lead units at the base, taking command of the 185th Special Operations Squadron from 2017-2018, noting that he was especially proud of "being trusted to take the MC-12W unit on its first deployment and make sure it was successful.”
“We performed beyond anyone’s expectations and have continued to do so. That’s thanks to the men and women with the 137th continually setting the Oklahoma Standard. Then and now, they make their mission a success no matter the obstacle.”
Gries then led the 137th Special Operations Group before assuming command of the 137th SOW on May 13, 2021.
“The U.S. Air Force has made a huge tactical pivot to near peer competition, and to lead a unit through a significant moment of change is what all commanders strive for,” he said. “It’s that opportunity to lead into the dark and to be on a path of absolute success. Those times that were most challenging for me as a leader are what have been most rewarding.”
As the 19th commander of the 137th SOW, Davis will help the wing continue to pivot as an organization to prepare for a combat mission in the future fight. His goal is to make processes as efficient as possible.
“I have a responsibility to help our people become the best at what they do,” he said. “My job is not to be the best pilot that I can be anymore. My job now is to provide, protect and lead, and to help our Airmen understand how I’m preparing them to do a mission that we will perform alongside our active duty counterparts.”
Davis, who grew up in Oklahoma, attended the Air Force Academy, where he was the starting catcher for the Academy baseball team.
After graduating in 1999, he married Amanda, also an Oklahoma natives and began pilot training (UPT) at Vance AFB
At UPT, Davis was selected to fly the A-10 Thunderbolt II and quickly began his follow-on courses at Sheppard AFB in Texas..
“I graduated from my Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF) course on a Friday, and our oldest daughter, Blaire, was born on Saturday,” then, “I went to Tucson that next week for A-10 FTU (Formal Training Unit) and a month later 9/11 happened.”
After FTU, he was assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope AFB. During this assignment, Davis was an A-10 pilot and jump battalion air liaison officer He deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 with the 82nd Airborne Division as a battalion air liaison officer and deployed again in 2005 with his squadron flying the A-10.
“My youngest daughter was born in between those deployments,” he noted. “I’m proud about having a young family through that time. My wife, Amanda, and my two girls have always kept me grounded.”
After his deployments, he spent two years at Osan Air Base as a squadron weapons officer. He then taught weapons school at Nellis AFB. Later, he joined the Michigan Air National Guard to assist Selfridge AFB with a conversion from F-16s to A-10s.
From there the family moved to Georgia with the Air Force Reserves 76th Fighter Squadron before moving back to Oklahoma City where he taught IFF at Sheppard AFB for four years.
In March of 2017, he was conducting a close air support sortie for one of the IFF students and learned that pilots were being hired to help the 137th Combat Training Flight train students in their JTAC qualifications course.
“At the time I was living in Oklahoma City, so I told them ‘Give me your commander’s number and tell them I’ll be there tomorrow,’” he laughed.
He officially joined the OKANG in 2018, becoming commander of the 137th CTF.
“After that position, I had the opportunity to take command of the 185th SOS in 2021, he said. “Then everything just fell into place. I deployed to Iraq in 2022 with the MC-12W, got back, became commander of the SOG and here we are now.”
Davis moves into his next chapter by continuing to help every 137th SOW Airman be the most experienced operator in their fields while supporting the base’s mission.
“Everything our wing is moving toward is to ensure our Airmen are ready, relevant and resilient,” he emphasized. “We are adopting missions that will give us longevity, which means we will be the most experienced aviators on any platform we operate, we’ll deploy in a cycle with our active duty counterparts, and we’re going to have the most experienced mission support group as a result.”
Davis’ biggest focus is to ensure Airmen have the tools and training to execute their mission to the Oklahoma Standard. He said Gries’ mentorship highlighted the importance of “flattening comms” by introducing Airmen at every experience level to the vision, mission and goal of the wing.
“We have to help our Airmen understand ‘The Why’ so they are prepared to face the struggles we see coming in the next five, 10 or 15 years,” Gries clarified. “If you pass the torch to the right people, who are masters at the basics, they will accomplish anything. It’s them who are going to be leading this mission into the future, and it starts as soon as they enter the gates of our base.”
After the guidon was passed, Gries concluded his time as the 18th commander of the 137th SOW with a message for the Airmen he led:
“Make sure whenever you are given the opportunity to do anything, large or small, to do it right all the time. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve alongside you. These past 11 years have been the greatest years of my military career.”