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Taking command: From small town Mississippi to the military's world stage

 

Aberdeen native Col. Scott Rowe is pictured en route to the Change of Command ceremony at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, June 12 where he assumed the role of commander of the 18th Operations Group. It is the largest combat ops group in the United States Air Force. With Rowe on the Air Force transport are his wife, Lindsey, and daughter McKenna, 3.

Aberdeen native Col. Scott Rowe is pictured en route to the Change of Command ceremony at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, June 12 where he assumed the role of commander of the 18th Operations Group. It is the largest combat ops group in the United States Air Force. With Rowe on the Air Force transport are his wife, Lindsey, and daughter McKenna, 3. Photo by: Courtesy photo

 

Launch Photo Gallery

 

Col. Scott Rowe, right, accepts the flag of the 18th Operations Group from 18th Wing Vice Commander Col. Richard Tanner in June during the Change of Command ceremony. The 18th Wing is the host wing for Kadena Air Base. It is the largest and principal organization in the Pacific Air Forces Fifth Air Force.

Col. Scott Rowe, right, accepts the flag of the 18th Operations Group from 18th Wing Vice Commander Col. Richard Tanner in June during the Change of Command ceremony. The 18th Wing is the host wing for Kadena Air Base. It is the largest and principal organization in the Pacific Air Forces Fifth Air Force.
Photo by: Courtesy photo

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

 

As a senior at Aberdeen High School in the spring of 1994, Scott Rowe was named "Most Likely to Succeed." The honor has proven prophetic many times over.  

 

In mid-June, Col. Rowe of the United States Air Force added another significant achievement to his biography: He officially became commander of the 18th Operations Group at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. It is the largest and most diverse operations group in the Air Force. The northeast Mississippi native who once reveled in playing baseball in Monroe County is in charge of nine squadrons -- nearly 900 people -- and more than 75 aircraft at Kadena, the hub of airpower in the Pacific.  

 

"We live in a tough neighborhood and I most look forward to ensuring our people are trained and prepared to provide unequaled combat airpower to the National Command Authority when we are called upon to do so," Rowe told The Dispatch via email from Okinawa.  

 

"It's not surprising," said Don Rowe of Aberdeen, the colonel's father, of his son's latest career milestone. "He's always excelled at everything he's ever done." 

 

That is more than simply a proud parent's opinion. 

 

Scott Rowe was valedictorian of his high school class, maintaining a 4.0 GPA all four years. He was a STAR student, Mr. Aberdeen High School and was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame. Rowe held the highest averages in math, English and social studies and was also chosen "Friendliest" his senior year.  

 

He lettered two years in football and four years in baseball and brought home awards like Most Valuable Baseball Player and Most Outstanding Hitter. And although in his household there were season tickets to Mississippi State University ball, and perhaps speculation he might one day play in the Magnolia State, Rowe had his eyes trained on a different goal. 

 

"He knew exactly where he wanted to go," his father said.  

 

 

 

Academy bound 

 

Scott Rowe knew early on he wanted to pursue appointments to and attend one of the country's esteemed service academies -- the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado; the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York; or the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He didn't even apply to other colleges.  

 

His father points to early influences, like the junior high nomination by teacher Jeanette Atkins that led to Scott's selection for a two-week Student Space Station Project. It included a trip to Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, Texas, study under NASA staff and a four-day simulated space mission aboard a model space station.  

 

In a 2013 Monroe Journal article by Ray Van Dusen, Scott's mother, educator Barbara Rowe, noted another impact. It occurred during a casual lunch one day when Scott was in ninth grade. John Curlee, the late former principal and Aberdeen Schools superintendent, asked Barbara Rowe if her son had ever thought about going to a military academy. 

 

"I'll never forget him for planting that seed," she is quoted as saying.  

 

Scott's determination resulted in appointments to not one, but all three of the academies. And it might be said that, but for the Rocky Mountains, his military career could have taken an entirely different path.  

 

"I was set to attend the Naval Academy when two close family friends, John and Beth Lord, insisted I visit the U.S. Air Force Academy before making a decision," Rowe said. "John took me out to Colorado Springs and once I saw the mountains, I was sold." 

 

 

 

Miles from home 

 

Ironically, after graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1998 (and playing baseball there three years), Rowe was back in Mississippi -- this time as a student pilot and later an instructor pilot at Columbus Air Force Base. He was honored as the 2001 14th Flying Training Wing's Instructor Pilot of the Year. 

 

Since his time at CAFB, Rowe's Air Force assignments have sent him Florida, Nevada, Alaska, Kansas, Washington, D.C., Kuwait and twice now to Japan. He was previously at Kadena Air Base from October 2011 to June 2013 as instructor pilot, examiner and director of operations of the 44th Fighter Squadron, and then commander of the squadron from July 2013 to June 2015.  

 

The following year, he taught diplomacy as an Air Force Fellow at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. From June 2016 to May 2018, he was vice chief with the Office of Military Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City, Kuwait.  

 

He was promoted to colonel in May 2017, with a biography replete with awards and decorations. 

 

 

 

In command 

 

During the Change of Command ceremony at Kadena Air Base in June, 18th Wing Vice Commander Col. Richard Tanner remarked, "If you go through Col. Rowe's record, it will literally give you an inferiority complex. He's literally been number one everywhere that he's been. I caution you as you get to know him. Please do not mistake the Ricky Bobby calm Southern drawl for someone who is a little bit slow. That's certainly not the case." 

 

Tanner cited a few historical highlights of the operations group started in 1927 and served through 1943 at Pearl Harbor. The group, he said, escorted Gen. Douglas McArthur to defend all assets moving south through the Pacific during the general's legendary campaign. One former commander of the unit was a founding member of the Tuskegee Airmen. In the fall of 2017, the group provided support for the U.S. following North Korean missile tests.  

 

More currently, "Our rescue forces recently played a significant role in the location and rescue of the Thai boys soccer team trapped in a cave," Rowe said. "It is extremely rewarding to use our capabilities to help out those in need." 

 

The commitment exhibited by Scott Rowe as Aberdeen High School's "Most Likely to Succeed" more than 20 years ago was a forerunner of the dedication he carries into military command. Along the way, he said, many family members and early friends, teachers and mentors were constantly supportive.  

 

"I was born and raised in Aberdeen, and it is safe to say the people of Aberdeen played -- and continue to play -- a large role in my life," he said. "To this day I carry and apply many of the lessons I learned growing up in small town Mississippi." 

 

Editor's note: Col. Richard Tanner's remarks from the Change of Command are courtesy of Ray Van Dusen of the Monroe Journal.

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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