U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Katrina Heikkinen

GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. -- Lying on the hood of his father’s car at the San Jose airport in California, a young Hiram ‘Paul’ Gates stared up into the sky watching airplanes fly above and he knew he wanted to fly.

Fast forward about 40 years, Col. Hiram ‘Paul’ Gates III retired from the Air Force after 30 years of service July 1, 2018.

Holding the position of vice commander of the 434th ARW since 2015, Gates supported and directed the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command.

“Friends, squadron mates, families members – this is truly humbling,” Gates said. “I am so blessed and privileged to have worked for the people of this wing.”

Gates’ Air Force career began in 1988 when he received a commission after graduating from the Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in international relations.

He then entered pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, and was assigned to the 905th Air Refueling Squadron, Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota.

In 1997, he transferred to the Air Force Reserve where he flew the KC-135R Stratotanker with the 63rd Air Refueling Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan.

Gates has held numerous positions and assignments including USAF Academy admissions liaison officer, and numerous flight and squadron commander positions serving at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, and Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Fast forward to 2011, Gates joined the 72nd Air Refueling Squadron at Grissom as a KC-135R Stratotanker instructor pilot. In 2012 he joined the 434th Operations Group as the deputy commander.

“If you asked Paul what his favorite job was, he’d say it was being a squadron commander,” said Col. Larry Shaw, 434th ARW commander. “But if you ask him what was the best opportunity – it’s being the vice wing commander.”

Gates’ impression on the wing and Airmen was evident by the hundreds of attendees present for his retirement ceremony, including members from the 63rd Air Refueling Squadron, a Blackhawk pilot, former Army Ranger, and former wing leaders, among others.

“I consider myself most fortunate being able to share a few moments of my time with Colonel Gates and [wife] Anne,” said (Ret.) Doug Schwartz, former 434th ARW commander, relaying a message from Chief Master Sgt. Robert Herman, Headquarters Air Force, senior enlisted manager and former 434th ARW command chief. “Colonel Gates is confident, competent, honest, passionate and has a great sense of humor. He’s committed to service, his Airmen and our families. He’s committed to our nation I know –because I’ve seen it.”

“Colonel Gates’ retirement is tough for me,” Shaw said. “He’s an aviator’s aviator. He’s been a friend, confidant, and advisor for a long time and I’ve really enjoyed both not only working with him, but learning from him over the years.”

Honest, genuine and humble are words frequently used to describe Gates.

“It has truly been a privilege to serve my constitution and country,” Gates addressed the crowd. “Throughout my career, I could not pick anytime, anywhere, that I knew what was I was going to be three years down the road. But if you [Airmen] get an opportunity that in your career – whether it’s being a first sergeant, PME, or an opportunity for growth – take it. Be that person to step up; don’t do it for yourself – do it for your Airmen.”

“In the 1960s when President Kennedy gave a directive that the United States was going to put a man on the moon, if you walked into NASA and talked to an engineer or the man sweeping the floor, they’d tell you the same thing: ‘we’re putting a man on the moon,” he continued.

"That’s this wing when it comes to the mission. Here in north-central Indiana, all of you have a direct effect on our ability to defend our national security.”

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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