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Colonel named commander of 126th Air Refueling Wing

Colonel Thomas Jackson of O’Fallon, Ill., a veteran with multiple overseas tours, has been named the next commander of the 126th Air Refueling Wing based at Scott Air Force Base where he will oversee about 900 airmen with eight KC-135R “Stratotanker” aircraft and an approximately $32 million operating budget.

He will be formally installed in ceremonies at the base on Saturday afternoon, March 7.

Jackson will also be responsible for the Illinois Air National Guard’s two Total Force Enterprise Associations; the 120 Airmen of the active Air Force associate 906th Air Refueling Squadron of Air Mobility Command and the 42 Airmen of an Illinois Air National Guard classic associate 126th Supply Chain Management Squadron of the Air Force Global Logistics Supply Center, Air Force Material Command.

“Col. Jackson has been with the 126th Air Refueling Wing since 1989, when they were still at O’Hare in Chicago. He has a deep and thorough understanding of all the wing’s operations and has the respect and admiration of the unit’s Airmen,” said Brig. Gen. Rich Neely, The Adjutant General and Commander of the Illinois National Guard. “He’s the right choice to lead the 126th into the 2020s.”

Jackson, who is now the wing’s Operations Group Commander, will replace Col. Jeffrey W. Jacobson, who has commanded the 126th Air Refueling Wing since March 2018.

“Colonel Jacobson is an outstanding officer who helped build the 126th Air Refueling Wing into the best KC-135 unit in the nation. He is a 1984 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, who served 14 years on active duty before joining the Illinois Air National Guard,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Nezamis, the Assistant Adjutant General – Air and Commander of the Illinois Air National Guard. The 126th ARW is a highly accomplished wing, awarded nine Air Force Outstanding Unit awards and at the top of the Air Force’s Mission Capability Readiness Rates.

Prior to Jacobson’s assignment as wing commander, he was the wing’s vice commander for two years and was the wing’s Operations Group Commander from November 2011 until June 2016.  Jacobson plans to retire from the military in March 2020 with 35 years and 10 months of military service. He has logged more than 7,000 hours in four different types of military aircraft and has accumulated more than 440 hours of combat flight time supporting operations throughout the world including both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jackson said he is both honored and humbled to assume command of the 126th Air Refueling Wing.

“The Airmen of the 126th Air Refueling Wing have built a legacy that is truly outstanding which dates back to 1927. We hunted submarines and conducted search and rescue missions in World War II, and have been involved in every major conflict since. In 1961, we conducted the first National Guard air refueling mission. We were fully mobilized for Desert Storm and have played and continue to play a vital role in air combat.”

Jackson’s military experience includes multiple combat deployments over the skies of Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Libya starting with Operation Desert Storm. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he flew over the continental United States protecting our nation’s airspace.

Jackson started his career as an enlisted crew chief in the 126th. He graduated from the Academy of Military Science and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in February 1994. He has held key command and staff positions at the squadron, group and wing levels.

Jackson holds a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a master’s of science degree from the University of Illinois. He is a graduate of the Air War College and Air Command and Staff College.

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