Colonel James C. O’Brien III is the Vice Commander, 19th Airlift Wing, Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, the “Home of Herk Nation.” The wing is responsible for providing worldwide deployable C-130 aircraft, aircrews, support personnel, and equipment for Air Mobility Command and Air Expeditionary Force tasking’s while serving more than 10,000 personnel and families in the Little Rock community. As vice commander, Col. O’Brien assists the commander in directing the combined efforts of all operations and support activities of the installation and the wing’s worldwide mobility mission that includes the operation and sustainment of 62 C-130 aircraft. He is responsible for ensuring the readiness and well-being of 10,000 Active Duty, Reserve, Air National Guard, and civilian personnel and their families. Col. O’Brien works in concert with the 314th Airlift Wing (AETC), the 189th Airlift Wing (ANG), the 913th Airlift Group (AFRC), and the 29th Weapons Squadron (ACC).
Col. O’Brien was commissioned from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2000, graduating with athletic distinction. He has deployed multiple times to Southwest Asia in support of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has commanded the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock AFB and the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Col. O’Brien has also served as a Department of Defense Fellow on both Capitol Hill, as a member of a U.S. Senator’s personal staff, and at the U.S. Department of Transportation, as a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Transportation.
Prior to his current assignment, Colonel O’Brien served as the Current Operations Deputy Division Chief in the Operations Directorate, United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) Headquarters, MacDill AFB, Fla., where he advised the USCENTCOM Commander and Director of Operations on the status and activities of all air, naval, ground, reconnaissance, and special operations forces in the USCENTCOM Area of Responsibility.
Col. O’Brien is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours, including 991 combat hours.
2000 Bachelor of Science degree in Management, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo.
2000 Aerospace Basic Course, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
2005 Squadron Officer School, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
2008 Masters of Business Administration, TUI University, Calif.
2010 Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Ala., by correspondence
2018 Eisenhower School of National Security and Resources Strategy, Washington, D.C.
1. September 2000 - May 2001, T-6A evaluation test participant, 559th Flying Training Squadron, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas
2. May 2001 - December 2001, Student, Undergraduate Pilot Training, Laughlin AFB, Texas
3. December 2001 - August 2002, Student, Undergraduate Pilot Training, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas
4. August 2002 - March 2003, Student, C-130E/H Initial Qualification Training, Little Rock AFB, Ark.
5. March 2003 - October 2005, Pilot, Chief of Tactics, and Chief of Safety, 105th Airlift Squadron, Tennessee Air National Guard, Nashville International Airport, Tenn.
6. October 2005 - August 2009, C-130E/H Instructor pilot, evaluator pilot, flight commander, and Chief of Standardization and Evaluation, 61st Airlift Squadron, Little Rock AFB, Ark.
7. August 2009 - November 2009, Student, C-130J Transition Qualification Course, Little Rock AFB, Ark.
8. November 2009 - December 2010, Formal Training Unit Instructor Pilot, Chief of Plans, and Scheduling Flight Commander, 48th Airlift Squadron, Little Rock AFB, Ark .
9. December 2010 - June 2011, Executive Officer, 314th Airlift Wing, Little Rock AFB, Ark.
10. June 2011 - July 2012, Aide-de-Camp to the Commander, Air Mobility Command, Scott AFB, Ill.
11. July 2012 - December 2013, Legislative Liaison Fellow, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
12. December 2013 - December 2014, Chief of Legislative Affairs, U.S. Pacific Command, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.
13. December 2014 - April 2015, Student, C-130J Requalification Course, Little Rock, AFB, Ark.
14. April 2015 - May 2016, Commander, 50th Airlift Squadron, Little Rock AFB, Ark.
15. May 2016 - Sep 2016, Commander, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan
16. Sep 2016 - July 2017, Deputy Commander, 19th Operations Group, Little Rock AFB, Ark.
17. July 2017 - July 2018, Student, Eisenhower School of National Security and Resources Strategy, Washington, D.C.
18. July 2018 - July 2021, Team Chief, Joint Operations Center and Deputy Division Chief, Current Operations Division, Headquarters U.S. Central Command, MacDill AFB, Fla.
SUMMARY OF JOINT ASSIGNMENTS
1. December 2013 - December 2014, Chief of Legislative Affairs, U.S. Pacific Command, Pentagon, Washington, D.C., as a major
2. July 2018 - July 2021, Deputy Division Chief, Current Operations Division (J33), Headquarters U.S. Central Command, MacDill AFB, Fla., as a lieutenant colonel and colonel
Rating: Command Pilot
Flight Hours: 3,100
Combat Hours: 991
Aircraft: C-130E/H, C-130J
MAJOR AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Defense Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster
Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Air Medal with one silver oak leaf cluster and three bronze oak leaf clusters
Aerial Achievement Medal
Air Force Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters
Air Force Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Air Force Combat Action Medal
Air Force Recognition Ribbon with two oak leaf clusters
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Iraq Campaign Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal
2010 Airlift Tanker Association Young Leadership Award
2010 General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Award
2010 Daedalian Exceptional Pilot of the Year, Air Education and Training Command
2009 “Best C-130 Team” and “Best Short Field Landing,” Air Mobility Command Rodeo
2007 Daedalian Exceptional Pilot of the Year, Air Mobility Command
2005 Distinguished Graduate, C-130 Aircraft Commander School
EFFECTIVE DATES OF PROMOTION
Second Lieutenant May 31, 2000
First Lieutenant May 31, 2002
Captain May 31, 2005
Major March 1, 2010
Lieutenant Colonel March 1, 2015
Colonel January 1, 2021
(Current as of July 2021)