98th Range Wing commander sees Nellis anew

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ryan Whitney
  • Nellis Public Affairs
When the 98th Range Wing and Nellis welcomed their newest commander and his family, Col. Mark Koechle was seeing Nellis for the fourth time with a fourth mission.

Colonel Koechle came to Nellis from the 355th Operations Group, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., where he served as the commander. He assumed command from Col. Christopher Haave in a ceremony July 20.

Although this is the second time the colonel has been stationed here, this is his fourth time at Nellis. He attended the U.S. Air Force Weapons School in 1989 as an A-10 pilot, and just 3 years later returned to the school as an instructor from 1992 until 1995, as well as a temporary duty assignment here for a Red Flag exercise.

"My wife and I are very excited to be back at Nellis, this is the first time that we have come back to a base that we have been stationed at before, and after 12 years, Nellis and Las Vegas have changed completely," Colonel Koechle said.

As the Range Wing commander, Colonel Koechle will be leading one of the most unique wings in the Air Force - overseeing the largest and most sophisticated instrumented battle space for testing and training in the United States. The range encompasses three million acres of restricted land and 15,000 square miles of airspace.

Nellis has grown an exceptional amount in the past few years, since the colonel was last here as an instructor, some of the biggest changes being the reactivation of the Aggressors and the development of the solar field, which is currently under construction.
"As a weapons school graduate, the last thing I wanted was to go back to the weapons school, even if it was as an instructor, but I was fortunate enough to have a superior who held my best interest in mind and suggested that I return to Nellis for the instructor position," Colonel Koechle recalled.

Taking the instructor position helped the Colonel broaden his knowledge of the Air Force, which he believes is the key to making the Air Force a successful and enjoyable career.

"I am a firm believer in communication. I can not help our Airmen with their problems unless I know what their challenges are, and the Airmen can't help me run the wing unless they know what challenges I face - we need to be able to communicate that throughout the base," said the colonel.

The colonel also holds integrity of his Airmen to the highest standards. He compared his mindset of integrity to that of a parent talking to their child about breaking something. "If you break something, tell me, if you try to cover it up and I find out, it will be harder on you when I find out than it would if I knew the situation from the beginning.

"As long as there is communication both ways, I do not foresee any problems with the wing. It is a true honor to be in this position and working with these fine Airmen," said Colonel Koechle.

When Colonel Koechle decided to follow in his father's footsteps and get commissioned into the Air Force in 1983, he didn't think that he would end up making a career out of it.

"When I signed up, I told myself that I was going to stay in as long as I am having fun, I never expected to be sitting here, 24 years later, as a wing commander, and still enjoying what the Air Force has to offer," he said.

"Colonel Haave did an outstanding job and has left the wing in excellent shape and in that respect, I have some pretty big shoes to fill," said the colonel. "I promise that I will do the best I can to give the Airmen the best resources and assets they need, so that they can continue to do their best in everything they do."