Dover Air Force Base’s Kozak taking Wing to California

DOVER –– After three years as the commander of the Air Force Reserve Command’s 512th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base, Col. Raymond Kozak will be moving on to his next stop, Travis Air Force Base in California.

Col. Kozak became interested in the armed forces at a young age, raised by a Korean War veteran and with a fascination with airplanes, the Air Force seemed the natural route to follow.

Col. Kozak began his career in the Air Force in 1979 by enrolling in the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado before undergoing a year of pilot training in Texas.

Col. Raymond Kozak

Col. Raymond Kozak

Since then, Col. Kozak has been climbing the “corporate ladder” and gaining more responsibility along the way. He started as a second lieutenant in 1983 then moved to first lieutenant in 1985, captain in 1987, major in 1994, lieutenant colonel in 2001 and finally to colonel in 2004.

He has earned 18 awards and decorations and logged more than 6,000 flight hours throughout his career.

As commander of the 512th Airlift Wing, Col. Kozak is responsible for 1,800 individuals that maintain and pilot C-17A Globemasters and C-5M Super Galaxies all over the world with a $25.2 million annual budget.

Col. Kozak is a southern California native and throughout the course of his career, has been stationed at 10 different locations, many of them more rural than home.

“Every stop is a little different but you become accustomed to each place,” he said. “We’ve really liked it here and we’ve come to like the pace of rural America.”

After three years in Dover, Col. Kozak considers one of his biggest accomplishments with the 512th Airlift Wing to be adapting to a new Air Force Inspection System (AFIS) that was put into place soon after his arrival.

“We had to reorganize our effort to meet the new AFIS and we passed,” he said. “I’m proud that we were able to adapt to the new system while continuing to be successful.”

The success of the 512th Airlift Wing is vital, as its 1,800 members need to work seamlessly with active-duty airmen.

Many of the Reservists are veterans. They find the Reserves a good place to finish out their remaining years in the service because a serviceman must put in 20 years before becoming eligible for any sort of pension.

“If you have 15 years in and are thinking about changing fields, you would probably just stick with it for another five years, but for those who’ve decide to get out between six and 10 years, the Reserves are usually a good option for them,” Col. Kozak said.

The average number of years Reservists had on active duty is 11 and the average of the 512th Airlift Wing members is 34.
Reservists must train one weekend a month and two weeks during the year. All have been to basic training and trained in a specialty.

“Our goal is to be operationally indistinguishable from active airmen and I think we succeed in that aspect,” Col. Kozak said. “We are always training to be ready for when the call comes because it always does.”

Even though Reservists regularly train, they are living civilian lives and one of the biggest challenges remains the transition from civilian to military life and vice versa.

“We try to plan mobilizations as far out as possible because these are civilians so they need to get their family, work or school sorted out,” Col. Kozak said.

Members of the 512th Airlift Wing are stationed all over the world. Currently members are in Germany, Kuwait, Romania, Spain and Qatar.

In the spring, Reservists played a large role in the Afghanistan retrograde missions, flying equipment back home.

“We always work in conjunction and in support of active-duty troops. We’re mission partners, not weekend warriors,” Col. Kozak said. “We are proud to contribute where and when we are needed.”

The backside of Reservists’ mobilization is the reintegration process. Like any other military member, they are required to go through a transition assistance training and have the option to use additional programs like the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program –– a program specifically for Reservists and members of the National Guard.

Col. Kozak’s last official day as commander in Dover is Aug. 1. Col. Derin S. Durham will be sworn in as his replacement at an official ceremony on base.

Col. Kozak’s position at Travis Air Force Base will have similar responsibilities as his Dover post, but in addition to the C-5 and C-17, he will also oversee flights and maintenance of the KC-10 Extender.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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