Getting to know your Group CC: Don't judge a book by its cover

  • Published
  • By Capt. Carla Gleason
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Col. Philippe Darcy, 56th Mission Support Group commander, may have been dressed in his Air Force Blues for this Monday morning interview, but he is a pilot at heart and that was apparent from the very first minute.

"I read the book The Right Stuff by Thomas Wolfe in high school and I knew from that moment that I wanted to be a fighter pilot," Darcy said. "I enrolled in ROTC at Cal State with that sole purpose in mind and went from there."

As a young Air Force officer, Darcy found he enjoyed the challenge of managing aircraft and technology in a three dimensional environment and realized after his first assignment that the Air Force would be his life-long career.

"I enjoyed the camaraderie and teamwork, even the challenge and sense of competition working to be the best you can be in whatever job you are given," Darcy said. "Being in the Air Force was like being part of a family."

Darcy spent the next 18 years as a fighter pilot commanding F-111s and F-15Es before winding up at the Pentagon working for the Secretary of the Air Force. It was during that assignment that he received a request to join the 56th Fighter Wing as its mission support group commander.

"I have had nothing but great assignments my entire Air Force career," Darcy said. "They have all been incredible learning experiences for me, even the Pentagon, but it was a huge relief to be back on an Air Force base at a fighter wing."

Being a mission support group commander may not involve flying planes, but according to Darcy it is an incredible experience that can't compare to anything else.

"Being a commander of such a large and diverse group tests all aspects of your leadership abilities," he said. Moving from commanding a small fighter squadron to a group with 1,900 Airmen and civilians has its benefits though. "It's also very rewarding. It comes down to the mission and the people - your ability to affect the mission while at the same time taking care of your most important asset, the people."

The added bonus, according to Darcy, is Luke's unique position in the Air Force.

"Because 90 percent of the F-16 fighter pilots and 100 percent of the F-16 maintainers come from here, Luke touches every F-16 flying in theater over our joint and coalition partners," Darcy said. "Luke has a hand in all of it. This base deploys nearly 300 individuals consistently throughout the year, more than half of them coming from the MSG. That means we are directly impacting the Air Force mission both inside and outside the wire; you don't see another base that uniquely takes it to the fight like Luke does."

Besides impacting the mission at large, the MSG has a direct impact on each individual Airman from the time they enter the Air Force all the way through their career, retirement and beyond.

"To be able to contribute that level of effort to the mission is very, very satisfying," Darcy said.

Things may have changed in the 22 years since the colonel first joined, but his love of the Air Force hasn't wavered.

"I figure I will keep going as long as they let me," he said. "I would love to end up back in the cockpit, but those opportunities for someone at this stage in his career are becoming few and far between."

For now, he will focus on the mission at hand, producing world class F-16 fighter pilots and taking care of the people who help make that happen.

The cliff notes version of Darcy's leadership philosophy is straightforward: take care of those you command and they will take care of you.

"It really comes down to empowering your people, resourcing them to the best of your ability and backing them when they make mistakes - which they will do - helping them through it and pushing through to move on," Darcy said. "If you respect and take care of your people they will out-perform your expectations and sometimes even their own."