Episode 18: Daniel “5-O” Kopp

Hello, I’m Daniel – husband to Anna, widower to Sarah, Air Force veteran, business owner, writer, speaker, financial planner, and Christ-follower. I’m the founder of Wise Stewardship Financial Planning where we offer fee-only, fiduciary financial planning and investment advice with a special focus on young widows and widowers as well as servicemembers and their families.

After completing Air Force ROTC at Purdue University, I commissioned as an officer into the Air Force in 2009 but continued my personal interest into personal finances, investing, and all things money-related. As an officer on active duty for almost 9 years, along with a brother, sister, and brother-in-law in the military, I experienced firsthand the benefits and challenges that military life can have on all aspects of life especially finances. Frequent changes like TDY’s, deployments, and PCS’s add unique potential opportunities and obstacles to meeting goals and dreams. Add in the often disparate and sometimes confusing military pay, benefits, scattered military benefits and discounts, and countless people offering advice or services, and there is often a lack of clarity on how best to optimize all of these to best meet goals.

Grief changes everything. I know that all too well from personal experience as I became a widower at 31 and before that, father to 3 children in heaven. My passion and purpose now is to take what I’ve learned from those experiences combined with financial planning and advice to be a help to you in your own unique grief journey. Wise Stewardship works together with you to help gain stability in your current financial situation, prioritize next steps, and walk with you into a new and different future.

Episode 17: Colonel Jason “Ox” Rueschhoff

Col Jason “Ox” Rueschhoff is the Commander of the 613th Air Operations Center. He is responsible to the Commander, Pacific Air Forces and Theater Joint Forces Air Component Commander, for command and control of joint air operations in the Pacific, to include mobility, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, space, cyberspace, and kinetic operations. The Center provides Homeland Defense through Operation NOBLE EAGLE bolstering regional alliances and relationships in support of the United States Indo-Pacific Command and Department of Defense. Command units include the 56th Air Communications Squadron and elements of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, the 5th Battlefield Coordination Detachment, and the 7th Fleet Coordinating Group. The Center maintains a Total Force Integration relationship with, and is augmented by, members of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 157th Air Operations Group, and the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 201st Air Operations Group. 

Colonel Rueschhoff earned his commission and Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration/Management from the United States Air Force Academy in 1997. He holds three Masters Degrees; one in Military Operational Art and Science, one in Airpower Art and Science, and one in Strategic Studies. His operational assignments included duty as a Flight Commander, Chief of Squadron and Wing Weapons, Chief Instructor Pilot, Joint Operational Planning Team Director, Operations Support Squadron Commander and Group Commander.

Episode 16: Lieutenant Colonel Marella “Big Mountain” Tobolt

Lt Col Big Mountain is an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Studies for Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Detachment 028, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona where she uses her doctorate in Applied Leadership to instruct and mentor our next generation of military leaders.

Lt Col Big Mountain received her commission from the Officer Training School in 1999. She earned her pilot wings from Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training, Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi in May 1999 where she graduated with academic distinction. She served as a C-130 pilot both at the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Force base and the 2nd Airlift Squadron at Pope AFB, North Carolina gaining operational experience in Southeast Asia and in the Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom AOR. In 2005, Lt Big Mountain transitioned to the Air Force reserves where she served as a foreign clearance overflight specialist and an airlift director of operations at the Tanker Airlift Control Center Air Operations Center. She volunteered to use her foreign language skill of Russian and deploy to serve as the Chief of Military Cooperation in Tashkent, Uzbekistan earning the Air Force CGO of the Year Award for her revitalization efforts of regional diplomatic ties and the Northern Distribution Network.

Prior to her current position, she was the deputy division chief of analysis and assessments for the Profession of Arms Center of Excellence (PACE), the Air Force's newest Center of Excellences charged to realign our culture with our Air Force Core Values. Lt Col Big Mountain was recognized as the region’s “Instructor of the Quarter”, Embry-Riddle’s "SGA Faculty of the Semester” in the Spring of 2017, and the "Field Grade Officer of the Quarter" for the entire Air University in the 1st Quarter of 2018.

Episode 15: Colonel Paul “PB” Birch

Col. Paul R. Birch, Ph.D. is the Commander, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing, Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The Wing consists of three groups with over 2,800 Battlefield Airmen at 20 locations throughout the Continental U.S. Its subordinate units are the 3d Air Support Operations Group at Fort Hood, Texas, the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the 820th Base Defense Group at Moody AFB. The ASOGs provide Air, Space, and Intelligence, Surveillance, & Reconnaissance and weather expertise to plan, coordinate, and execute the supported ground commander’s scheme of maneuver. The 820th BDG provides rapidly deployable, fully integrated, highly specialized forces for active internal and external base defense.

Col. Birch earned his commission as a distinguished graduate from the United States Air Force Academy in 1996. He holds a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and a doctoral degree from the Air University. He is a senior pilot with more than 2,100 flying hours in the T-34C, T-1, T-39, T-37, T-38, AT-38, F-15E, KC-10A, U-2S and E-3B/G. He has over 750 combat hours and has flown missions in operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Inherent Resolve and Resolute Support.

Prior to assuming his current position, Colonel Birch was the Special Assistant to the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs (SAF/IA).

Episode 14: Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas “Anchor” Lofthouse

Lt Col Nicholas S. Lofthouse is the Commander, 3rd Operations Support Squadron, 3rd Operations Group, 3rd Wing, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Alaska. The 3rd Operations Support Squadron enables all aspects of flying operations including tower, airfield operations, weather forecasting, intelligence, aircrew flight equipment, scheduling, flight simulators, aviation resource management wing training, and wing weapons for locally assigned F-22, E-3, C-17, C-12, HC-130, and HH-60 aircraft. The squadron maintains 24/7 airfield operations in an arctic environment to support real-world airlift missions and alert commitments for rescue, fighter, and command and control aircraft.

Lt Col Lofthouse entered the Air Force in 2003 through the United States Air Force Academy. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Military History from the Air Force Academy, a Master of Science in Quantitative Finance from the University of London, and a Master of Arts in Military Operational Art and Science from Air Command and Staff College. Lt Col Lofthouse graduated from SUPT at Columbus Air Force Base in 2004, and is a Command Pilot with over 1,200 flying hours in the F-15A/B/C/D and F-22A. His flying duties include qualifications as an instructor pilot, flight evaluator, and mission commander. Previous assignments have included duties as a Flight Commander, Legislative Liaison for Alaskan Command and 11th Air Force, Requirements Officer on the Air Staff, and Fighter Squadron Director of Operations. Lt Col Lofthouse has deployed to USPACOM for two Theater Security Packages, and most recently he deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, in 2017, as the Team Leader for the Air Defense Liaison Team serving in the Iraqi Air Defense Operations Center.

Episode 13: Brigadier General (Retired) Trent H. Edwards

Brigadier General (Retired) Trent H. Edwards is the Senior Vice President, Military and Community Development at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce. Gen. Edwards entered the Air Force in 1990 after graduating from North Carolina A&T State University. He served in key Air Force and Secretary of Defense staff positions such as Aide de Camp to the Commander Air Education and Training Command and Senior Military Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller.

Gen. Edwards served 30 years as an active duty Airman and finished his career as the United States Air Force Director of Budget Operations and Personnel.  Prior to that assignment, he was the Comptroller and Programmer for Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has commanded two Air Force Wings, including the largest training wing in the Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base, and the 42nd Air Base Wing at Maxwell Air Force Base from 2012-2014.  Upon retirement, Gen. Edwards returned to Montgomery, Alabama with his family to continue serving in a city he calls his “adopted home", and the best hometown in the Air Force.

Episode 12: Lieutenant Colonel Gabriel “Gaberock” Avilla

Lieutenant Colonel Gabriel C. Avilla is the Chief, Fusion Operations Division, Joint Forces Headquarters Department of Defense Information Network, Fort Meade, Maryland. He leads 26 military, civilians, and contractors providing analysis, reporting, response, and mitigations to counter malicious cyberspace activity and threats. He coordinates cybersecurity defense strategy at the operational level of warfare for over 240,000 cyberspace forces across 43 components. Prior to this assignment, Lieutenant Colonel Avilla served as Commander, 673d Communications Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

Lieutenant Colonel Avilla attended Northern Arizona University where he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Computer Information Systems in 2001. Lieutenant Colonel Avilla also received his commission from the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at Northern Arizona University. Lieutenant Colonel Avilla has been married to his wife the former Ms. Gina Stasik for 16 years. They have two wonderful children, Lana and Benjamin

Episode 11: Captain Russell A. Lewis and 1st Lieutenant Jared I. Hines

On the 11th episode of the LaaD Podcast, we talk with two officers who refuse to let their rank (or lack of) stand in the way of making a positive impact throughout the Air Force. In February 2018, Captain Lewis and 1st Lieutenant Hines successfully launched the Higher Level Leadership Conference, where their mission is to mold military and civilian minorities into highly influential leaders dedicated to unifying, educating, and empowering generations.

Captain Russell A. Lewis is a native of Harrisville, Mississippi, and a 2015 graduate of Jackson State University, where he earned his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and began his career as a Force Support Officer at Keesler AFB, Mississippi. As a Force Support Officer for the 81st Force Support Squadron at Keesler, he commanded the Military Personnel Flight where he led 40 military and civilian members. Capt. Lewis also led the Sustainment Services Flight, which consisted of 25 facilities, 400 personnel, and he executed a $21 million budget. Lt Lewis deployed to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, Al Dhafra Air Base, U.A.E., in 2018 as an Executive Officer for the 380th Maintenance Group. 

EDUCATION - Bachelor and Master of Social Work, Jackson State University 

1st Lieutenant Jared I. Hines is a a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a 2016 graduate of The University of South Carolina, where he earned his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and is currently continuing his career as a contracting officer in San Diego, CA. With three years of Active Duty service, Lt. Hines holds a Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) Level I, and is responsible for the administration and execution of 426 contracts portfolio totaling over $22.5 billion in contract value. He manages a contracts team that executes a workload consisting of two ACAT 1C Programs (MQ1C Gray Eagle and MQ-9 Reaper) in various life cycle stages ranging from Research and Development (R&D) through Full Rate Production. Additionally, he supports a robust Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program servicing over 14 countries worldwide.

EDUCATION - Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, University of South Carolina

Episode 10: Chief Master Sergeant David W. Wade

Chief Master Sgt. David W. Wade is the Command Chief Master Sergeant, Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA. He advises the commander and staff on matters influencing the health, welfare, morale and effective utilization of all assigned personnel. The command operates more than 1,000 aircraft, 35 wings, 11 bases, and 1,348 units at more than 300 operating locations worldwide with 159,000 total force military and civilian personnel. As the Combat Air Forces lead agent, ACC develops strategy, doctrine, concepts, tactics and procedures for air-, space-, and cyber-power employment. The command provides conventional and information warfare forces to all unified commands to ensure air, space, cyber, and information superiority for warfighters and national decision-makers. The command can also be called upon to assist national agencies with intelligence, surveillance and crisis response capabilities.

Chief Wade, a native of Bismarck, North Dakota, enlisted in the Air Force in October 1992. His background includes various positions within aircraft maintenance to include Flying Crew Chief, Section Chief, Maintenance Flight Chief, Production Superintendent, Aircraft Maintenance Unit Superintendent and Group Superintendent.

Prior to his current position, Chief Wade was the Command Chief for Ninth Air Force, Shaw Air Force Base, SC. He has deployed in support of Operations Southern Watch, Allied Force, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Inherent Resolve.

Episode 9: General Mike “Mobile” Holmes

General Mike "Mobile" Holmes is the Commander, Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. As the commander, he is responsible for organizing, training, equipping and maintaining combat-ready air, space, cyber and intelligence forces for rapid deployment and employment while ensuring strategic air defense forces are ready to meet the challenges of peacetime air sovereignty and wartime defense. The command operates more than 1,000 aircraft, 35 wings, 11 bases, and 1,348 units at more than 300 operating locations worldwide with 159,000 total force military and civilian personnel.

As the Combat Air Forces lead agent, ACC develops strategy, doctrine, concepts, tactics, and procedures for air-, space-, and cyber-power employment. The command provides conventional and information warfare forces to all unified commands to ensure air, space, cyber, and information superiority for warfighters and national decision-makers. The command can also be called upon to assist national agencies with intelligence, surveillance and crisis response capabilities.

General Holmes entered the Air Force through Officer Training School in 1981 after receiving a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee. He has commanded the 27th Fighter Squadron, the 14th Operations Group, the 4th Fighter Wing and the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing. He has served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on headquarters staffs of the United States Air Force, U.S. European Command and Pacific Air Forces. Prior to his current position, he served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Arlington, Va.

He is a command pilot with more than 4,000 hours, including over 530 combat hours in the F-15A/B/C/D/E, and has also flown the T/AT-38, T-37, and T-1A.

Episode 8: Chief Master Sergeant Hope L. Skibitsky

Chief Master Sergeant Hope L. Skibitsky is the Command Chief, 27th Special Operations Wing, Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. The wing has 6,000 active and civilian Airmen and joint partners directly supporting United States Special Operations Command operations across five combatant commands and 6 continents. Chief Skibitsky is the senior enlisted advisor to the Commander on all aspects of employment, training, readiness, resilience, and development of the force.

Chief Skibitsky also serves as the Command Senior Enlisted Leader for Joint Special Operations Air Component-Central, Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. In this role she advises the commander on the employment, readiness, and resiliency of 700 Special Operations Aviation personnel from all branches of the Armed Forces. Joint Special Operations Air Component-Central has operational responsibility for all Special Operations Aviation across the Central Command area of responsibility.

Hailing from Ranger, Texas, Chief Skibitsky entered the Air Force in September 1995. She enrolled in the Medical Technician Apprentice technical training course at Sheppard AFB, Texas in October of 1995 and graduated Phase II in April of 1996. Her background includes duties in Education and Training, Health and Wellness, and Base Honor Guard. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Resources Management, through Ashford University. She is a certified facilitator in multiple professional development training courses, and is passionate about the development of Airmen at all levels. Her assignments include bases in Texas, California, and England as well as multiple deployments in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

Episode 7: Chief Master Sergeant Raymond “Kenny” Mott

Chief Mott

Chief Master Sergeant Raymond “Kenny” Mott.  Kenny is the Command Chief Master Sergeant, 552nd Air Control Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. In this position, Chief Mott advises the commander on the health, welfare, morale, mission effectiveness, and proper utilization of more than 4,000 men and women responsible for Air Combat Command's fleet of E-3 Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS) aircraft and ground-based Control and Reporting Centers (CRC) supporting combatant commanders worldwide. He is the commander’s primary adviser on all enlisted issues. His focus is on taking care of the Airmen, so they can take care of the mission of the Air Force’s only integrated Air Battle Management Wing.  Chief Mott describes why G.R.I.T. is so important to developing leaders and the importance of connection. He also talks about the mistakes he made as a young Airmen and how he used them for motivation and to shape his leadership style.

Chief Mott entered the Air Force March 1993. His background includes various assignments as an operator, instructor and evaluator of airborne mission systems. Chief Mott has served at bases in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas, California and Virginia. He is a Chief Enlisted Aviator with 270 combat flight hours, 755 combat support flight hours, and 2754 operational flight hours in the AWACS E-3 B/C and KC-135R Project Speckled Trout. Chief Mott has experience in squadron, group, wing and Major Command leadership positions. He assumed his current duties in October 2018.

Episode 6: Chief Master Sergeant JoAnne “Jo” Bass

Chief Master Sergeant JoAnne S. Bass is the Command Chief Master Sergeant for Second Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. She is the senior enlisted leader and advisor to the commander on all matters impacting the professional development, proper utilization, and the readiness of the enlisted corps. The command consists of five Training Wings, 18 Groups with 76 Operating Locations Worldwide, in support of 13,000 Enlisted, Officers, Civilians, Contractors and 36,000 Basic Trainees per year. In addition, Second Air Force is home to more than 265 Air Force Specialties through 3,400 courses graduating 150,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and international students annually in various fields including financial management, security forces, cyber, personnel, weather, civil engineering, aircraft maintenance, medical, avionics, security forces, space and missile operations/maintenance, and multiple intelligence disciplines, while providing 93% of the Air Force’s Initial Skills Training.

Chief Bass was raised as an Army dependent, living in several overseas and stateside locations, prior to entering the Air Force in March 1993. She has held a variety of leadership positions serving at the squadron, group, wing, major command and Headquarters Air Force levels with significant joint service and special operations experience. Chief Bass has participated in several operations and exercises as well as deployments in direct support of Operation Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Prior to this assignment, she served as the Chief of Air Force Enlisted Developmental Education located at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

Episode 5: Colonel Adam “Trout” Marshall

Colonel “Trout” Marshall is one of the deepest thinkers I know. Although we have not been stationed together for over two decades, our paths crossed a couple of times.  Each encounter reminded me that we are lucky to have the world’s most intelligent and caring leaders serving our country.  His eclectic experiences in the intelligence community, US Navy and US Air Force have given him an enviable perspective. He shares his thoughts and experiences on professional development and exportable techniques for effective coaching for succession and deliberate leadership training.  Colonel Marshall is the Commander of the 201 st Combat Operations Squadron, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH), Hawaii. He is responsible for the training, development, and mentorship of all Combat Operations Squadron personnel delivering combat power through the Air Operations Center (AOC) Weapon System.

Colonel Marshall graduated from the University of Washington and was commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program in 1998. Subsequently, Colonel Marshall graduated Undergraduate Air Battle Manager Training and was qualified as an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) Air Weapons Officer and eventually an Electronic Combat Officer. Before transitioning to the Air National Guard in 2002, Colonel Marshall deployed in support of Counterdrug Operations, as well as, Operations SOUTHERN WATCH and ENDURING FREEDOM.

Colonel Marshall joined the 112th Air Operations Squadron (AOS), Pennsylvania Air National Guard then briefly transferred to the Arizona Air National Guard from 2006—2009. While in Arizona, Colonel Marshall greatly enjoyed training enlisted Weapons Directors as the Chief of Training Development, then Chief of Training, for the USAF Weapons Director School, Luke AFB, Ariz. Returning to the 112th in 2009, Colonel Marshall returned to his AOC roots prior to assuming duties as Commander.  During the Guard portion of his career, Colonel Marshall has deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and the predecessor to what became Operation INHERENT RESOLVE.

Episode 4: Lieutenant Colonel Greg “Finch” Blom

Lieutenant Colonel Blom believes that aspiring leaders should place less emphasis on trendy leadership books and more emphasis on achieving personal and organizational clarity.  

Personal clarity begins with rigorous self-reflection:  before you can lead others, you must first be demonstrate the ability to lead yourself.  Aspiring leaders should ask themselves “Would you follow you?”  They must identify their personal development goals, areas for growth, and blind spots.  Once they have achieved this personal clarity, they must then create a personal-development plan to become the leader they envision!  

Second, the aspiring leader must achieve organizational clarity.  They need to ask themselves, “What makes my organization unique?”  Once they have identified the needs, strengths and weaknesses, and culture of their organization, they must develop a priority-based plan to achieve the organization’s mission!   

Lieutenant Colonel Blom is currently the commander of the 5th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron, in Kadena, Japan.  He is a graduate of the US Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS), US Air Force Weapons School, US Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC), Air Command and Staff College (ACSC), and Squadron Officer School (SOS).  He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, a Master’s of Philosophy in Military Strategy from Air University, and a Master’s of Science in Aviation Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Additionally, he has served in the Strategic Plans, Programs, and Requirements Directorate (A-5/8) at Headquarters US Air Force, Washington, DC, and has authored numerous articles on military operations, leadership, and personnel issues.