Polanco takes command of 168th Air Refueling Squadron

Release Number: 16-101

Senior Airman Hannah Moore, aircraft electrical and environmental specialist with the 168th Maintenance Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, sings the National Anthem during the assumption of command ceremony for Lt. Col. Jhonny Polanco, December 27, 2016, at the 168th Operations Group theater on Eielson AFB, Alaska. Polanco previously served as the 168th Operations Support Squadron director of operations and now leads the 168th Air Refueling Squadron. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Paul Mann/Released)

Senior Airman Hannah Moore, aircraft electrical and environmental specialist with the 168th Maintenance Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, sings the National Anthem during the assumption of command ceremony for Lt. Col. Jhonny Polanco, December 27, 2016, at the 168th Operations Group theater on Eielson AFB, Alaska. Polanco previously served as the 168th Operations Support Squadron director of operations and now leads the 168th Air Refueling Squadron. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Paul Mann/Released)

Major Christopher Greene, KC-135R Stratotanker pilot and aircrew scheduler for the 168th Air Refueling Squadron, introduces distinguished guests and visitors as the emcee during an assumption of command ceremony December 27, 2016, Eielson AFB, Alaska. Lt. Col. Jhonny Polanco assumed command of the refueling squadron, replacing Lt. Col. Buck Smith who retired from the Interior-Alaska Air National Guard wing earlier this month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Paul Mann/Released)

Major Christopher Greene, KC-135R Stratotanker pilot and aircrew scheduler for the 168th Air Refueling Squadron, introduces distinguished guests and visitors as the emcee during an assumption of command ceremony December 27, 2016, Eielson AFB, Alaska. Lt. Col. Jhonny Polanco assumed command of the refueling squadron, replacing Lt. Col. Buck Smith who retired from the Interior-Alaska Air National Guard wing earlier this month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Paul Mann/Released)

Col. Bryan White, 168th Operations Group commander, thanks Carmen, Paloma, and Ariana Polanco, the wife and daughters of Lt. Col. Jhonny Polanco, during the assumption of command ceremony where Lt. Col. Polanco received the guidon as the new 168th Air Refueling Squadron commander, Eielson AFB, Alaska, December 27, 2016. Polanco is assuming command of the squadron following the retirement of his predecessor, Lt. Col. Buck Smith, who retired from the Interior-Alaska Air National Guard wing earlier this month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Paul Mann/Released)

Col. Bryan White, 168th Operations Group commander, thanks Carmen, Paloma, and Ariana Polanco, the wife and daughters of Lt. Col. Jhonny Polanco, during the assumption of command ceremony where Lt. Col. Polanco received the guidon as the new 168th Air Refueling Squadron commander, Eielson AFB, Alaska, December 27, 2016. Polanco is assuming command of the squadron following the retirement of his predecessor, Lt. Col. Buck Smith, who retired from the Interior-Alaska Air National Guard wing earlier this month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Paul Mann/Released)

Col. Bryan White, 168th Operations Group commander, hands the 168th Air Refueling Squadron guidon to Lt. Col. Jhonny Polanco, during the assumption of command ceremony inside the group’s auditorium at Eielson AFB, Alaska, December 27, 2016. Polanco is assuming command of the squadron following the retirement of his predecessor, Lt. Col. Buck Smith, who retired from the Interior-Alaska Air National Guard wing earlier this month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Paul Mann/Released)

Col. Bryan White, 168th Operations Group commander, hands the 168th Air Refueling Squadron guidon to Lt. Col. Jhonny Polanco, during the assumption of command ceremony inside the group’s auditorium at Eielson AFB, Alaska, December 27, 2016. Polanco is assuming command of the squadron following the retirement of his predecessor, Lt. Col. Buck Smith, who retired from the Interior-Alaska Air National Guard wing earlier this month. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Paul Mann/Released)


Lt. Col. Jhonny Polanco assumed command of the 168th Air Refueling Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, today during a ceremony held here at the operation group's theater.

Polanco most recently served as the 168th Operations Support Squadron, director of operations, a position he had held since June of 2015.

Col. Bryan White, commander of the 168th Operations Group and presiding officer for today's ceremony, began by first recognizing Polanco's wife and daughters, "Carmen, thank you. Not only for being here today, but for the many hundreds of times you've been out here to welcome home families, willing to give up your time and energy to do so. You've always brought the girls with you, you are part of this family."

Polanco joined the operations group in 2006 as a pilot, after separating from the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served from August 1997 until February 2006.

"For the last two years Jhonny has been, essentially the OSS commander, but without the official title. He's deployed to Guam, where he was the detachment commander for approximately 110 people and did outstanding," said White. 

"He is without a doubt, one of the most prepared people to ever accept a flag and become a commander," said White.

Polanco expressed his gratitude and thanked Col. White for the opportunity to lead, and thanked his family for their support throughout his career.

"Col. White, thank you for trusting me with our air refueling squadron. I am humbled and honored as I stand here now, I will not let you down sir," said Polanco.

"In 1997 I was working for UPS (United Parcel Service Inc.), driving the little trucks, but I'd been talking to the recruiters. She didn't know anything about it," said Polanco referring to his wife.

At the time the family was living in Queens, N.Y. and when Polanco told her that he'd enlisted his advice was, "Hang in there, we're going for a ride."

In his new role as commander, Polanco is responsible for organizing, training, and equipping the men and women assigned to the 168th ARS, preparing them for prompt mobilization and providing global reach to the United States and its coalition partners.