In celebration of Veterans Day on Monday, November 12, Andover invited Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth H. Weiner ’96 to campus for the 10th Annual Veterans Day Program, honoring his 18 years of service in the U.S. Air Force.
Weiner, who joined the Air Force in 2001, noted that his most recent duty was serving as the Commander of the 62nd Operations Support Squadron Joint Base in Lewis-McChord, Wash. According to Weiner, his job mainly consisted of managing the airfield and equipment in addition to conducting humanitarian missions around the world.
“The job I had was to command a squadron, and that Squadron level is the first level of command where you get actual command authority. So the Operations Support Squadron, or OSS, usually is responsible for running the airfield. Most Air Force bases have a runway, so I was responsible for the airfield itself, air traffic control, intelligence, squadron, tactics, aircrew flight equipment— basically our survival equipment that we have on board the airplanes, like helmets, night vision goggles, parachutes,” said Weiner.
Another major duty as Commander was appointing and overseeing approximately 300 military and civilian personnel, according to Weiner. Though Weiner was initially overwhelmed by the heavy responsibility of the job, he ultimately found the experience to be the peak of his experience at the Air Force.
Weiner said, “[Other duties include] the scheduling of missions, [and] putting air crew members against missions that need to go out and fly… Everything that supports planes coming and going from our air force base was what I was responsible for, [which included] about 300 people. For me, it was the pinnacle of any job I could ask for in the Air Force. It was awesome. I loved it.”
In both choosing his path as a pilot and working throughout his career, Weiner believes that embodying Non Sibi has helped him succeed in his military career.
Weiner said, “I don’t think the military is the only way… I would tell everyone to do it. For me, service in the military allowed me to feel like I could serve others. What I like about being in the military, based on what I learned at Andover, is that I feel like my job is to help people. We’re in the business of war in the military, but if we do our job really well, we either don’t have to go to war, or war can be shorter.”
Weiner continued, “In my job in particular, flying C-17s, means I get to help people, whether it is just simply taking them where they need to go or giving them the supplies they need. We do humanitarian evacuation missions where we take people out of harm’s way. We do air medical evacuation missions where we fly injured service members out. Every day, I get to feel like that idea of Non Sibi goes with me to work in the Air Force.”
After graduating from Andover, Weiner graduated from George Washington University with a Bachelor of Arts in History. According to Weiner, Andover set the standard for his boarding experiences thereafter.
Weiner said, “My Senior year I lived in Thompson house. Living with four guys in basically your own house was the best thing in the world. I absolutely loved living there. So for me, [when] I [went] to college it was kind of boring after Andover because I liked it here so much.”
During his Senior year, Weiner and his friend pursued their interest in aviation with an independent project. The two built a flying go-kart attached to an air balloon that they managed to fly off the Great Lawn.
“My Senior Spring, I wanted to do as little as possible. And so my buddy Rush… he and I came up with an idea that we needed to do a Senior project. So we worked it out so that we could take three classes and then do a senior project… We built a go-kart, and we attached it to a hot air balloon and flew it off the Great Lawn, which was awesome,” said Weiner.
Weiner’s affinity for aviation was further sparked by flights to Martha’s Vineyard with his friend[b]s on Wednesday afternoons.
“I did have a friend who got his airplane license. And on Wednesday afternoons, we occasionally would fly to Martha’s Vineyard and get a cheeseburger and come back to Andover, never [telling] anybody where we were going. He was a pilot, and we would just get in a taxi, go to the Lawrence airport, take off, go get lunch somewhere, and fly back. That was awesome,” said Weiner.
Weiner is currently a graduate student at the Naval War College preparing for future work in the military. After graduation, Weiner expects to take an administrative role at the Pentagon. He plans to retire after 24 years in the military, when he will have the time to pursue his other passions.
Weiner said, “I commanded the squadron before, then the next level would be for me to be a group commander. I would love to have that opportunity. That will put me in the military for about 24 years. And right now, I think that’s probably the point where I’ll retire and find something else to do. But the great part is, I’ll be in my mid 40s, and I can start something else with full Air Force retirement. I can go start a whole new life.”