116th Vice Commander retiring after nearly four decades

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Paul Ross
  • 116th Air Control Wing
It started when a low flying F-104 Thunderchief shot by leaving a plume of exhaust and a newfound dream.

A young Air Force ROTC cadet decided to become a fighter pilot that day and the fruition of his aspirations is an admirable 38-year career that is coming to its end.

Col. Bob Doehling, 116th Air Control Wing vice commander, retires Mar. 10 and is leaving behind a long and distinguished career.

"I've always enjoyed everything I've done," said Col. Doehling. "There's been nothing bad in my career, nothing that I look back on and wish I hadn't done. I wouldn't change anything."

Col. Doehling has logged more than 14,000 flying hours on various aircraft and loves each of them for their own reasons.

"The F-15 is clearly my favorite because it is the most capable aircraft in the mission I love which is air-to-air," said the colonel. "Although, every airplane I've flown I've loved for one reason or another. I loved the F-100 because it was challenging and one of the more demanding airplanes that I ever flew. You could not be slow. The A-10 is the best air-to-ground airplane ever built as far as I'm concerned. It's absolutely phenomenal. If I had to go to war in this day and age it I would want to go in the A-10 because that's were all the action is. The B-1 was pretty awesome. I've never had fire power like that before. One B-1 carried almost a squadron of F-16s worth of munitions in one load, and of course I the love the capabilities the E-8C brings to the fight."

With 26 years spent as a fighter pilot, the colonel is at home in the cockpit.

"My favorite flying assignment and probably the most fun I've had, flying wise, was the F-5s," said Col. Doehling. "We flew about seven to ten times a week. We flew everyday. If you didn't fly you felt like you weren't doing something. For a fighter pilot flying two to three times a day is why you joined the Air Force."

Some of the more significant events in Col. Doehling's career came when the goals he set before himself were completed.

"The first of my significant events is of course the day I got commissioned," said Col. Doehling. "Entering the Air Force was a major event for me. Going to pilot training and graduating was another major event. It was something I had my heart set on. I think the next significant events were my transitions into different fighters. I flew fighters for 26 years. Some more key events were moving into the B-1 Bomber, moving into higher positions of command and finally the transition to the 116th ACW. And of course retirement is a major event."

There have been many changes in the Air Force since the colonel was first commissioned on Dec. 12 1969.

"The Air Force has gotten a lot smaller and more modern," said the colonel. "The culture has changed from a primarily dominate male service when I first entered. Now women are authorized in combat arms and all career fields that I'm aware of. The only career fields that they were allowed in, in the mid '60s, were the medical field and what they called the 702 which is today's information management. The Air Force is also a lot more health consciences today then it was back then."

With changes to the Air Force there have also been changes in global threats.

"The threat in the World, although great, is a different kind of threat," said the colonel. "Terrorism is an unseen threat. In the '60s, '70s and '80s there was the possibility of a global war with the Soviet Union at that time. I think that has created a major difference in the philosophy of the Air Force. Now we are going for smaller quantities of highly capable weapons systems, very diverse. We are very much into the technology where in the '60s and '70s it was brute force. Now we use precision, smaller weapons. We'll seek out to destroy a single target. That target may be a person, it may be a vehicle, it may be a building, but we do it with very fine equipment. Vietnam was very much like World War II."

Col. Doehling has fought in Vietnam and in one way or another been a part of all the wars and conflicts the United States has been involved in over the past forty years. He has flown some of the nation's most superior aircraft. He witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the World Trade Center all while wearing the Air Force uniform. Now he looks forward to a more relaxing life.

"I bought a fishing boat recently," said the colonel. "I have a log home up in north Georgia and a house in Niceville, Fla. at Bluewater Bay. So, I plan on doing some fishing and traveling. I'll spend time with my friends down in Florida and my family in Georgia and stay busy with projects and stay out of uniform."

For those in the middle of or those just launching their military careers, Col. Doehling offers some advice.

"Take advantage of your career, there's marvelous opportunities and it can last a long time if you want it to," said Col. Doehling. "If one thing isn't exactly what you'd like to be doing look for something else. Stay interested. If you aren't having fun, it is time to move on."
The colonel will leave his years of military service with a deep appreciation for those he served with for many years.

"My life was enriched by my military family, friends and associates -- I will miss 'you' most of all," said Col. Doehling.