Meet Col. Benjamin Jonsson, the new base commander at MacDill AFB
By ILEANA NAJARRO | Tampa Bay Times | Published: August 4, 2020
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — Col. Benjamin Jonsson, 43, assumed command of the 6th Air Refueling Wing in a ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa on Tuesday. Guests, including Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, wore masks.
Jonsson arrived from the Al Udeid Airbase in Qatar, where for the past two years he served as vice commander of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, receiving and operating forces, including airmen arriving from MacDill.
Jonsson moved here with his wife and five children, who are excited to be close to his sister and her family in Wesley Chapel, as well as his parents. They followed his sister in moving to Florida several years ago.
In his new role, Jonsson will prepare and deploy airmen around the globe on air refueling missions, including sending out a squadron to his former base soon. He also will serve as the base’s de factor mayor.
Jonsson spoke with the Tampa Bay Times about his goals for the new assignment. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What are your priorities for leading the 6th Air Refueling Wing?
We’re going to continue to focus on readiness as our top priority, and that’s a Department of Defense and Air Force priority. It’s making sure that we as a wing, and as an Air Force, and each airman in their specialty is ready for the challenges that lay ahead. ... And right behind it, or along with it, protecting our force and the safety of our airmen in the midst of COVID-19.
What are your priorities for running the installation as a whole?
Top of the list really does have to be force protection. So that’s my responsibility as the installation commander — to provide protection for everyone on the installation. Of course, that includes the health threat, but it’s really broader than that. It includes any kind of threat to any member of the installation.
We host 33 mission partners here on the installation, so their mission really is our mission. ... To provide that unrivaled mission support ... both to our mission partners and to the families that reside on the installation, those are my priorities.
What will you do to build ties with the broader Tampa Bay community, and why is that important?
First off, let me say how impressive the community relationship is with MacDill. It really is first-class, and it’s something special that people across the Air Force recognize. So I’m just thrilled to be a part of that.
In one sense, those ties are already there. They are quite deep and strong, and so it’s really my responsibility to keep those ties strong and strengthen them more.
And we’ll do that in the way that we’ve done it up until this point, just by having robust dialogue, coordination, opportunities for exchange between leadership on the base and our community partners off the installation, as well as our families.
What is it like assuming command during a pandemic?
Regardless of the timing, I have to say it is really the job of a lifetime. It is an opportunity that you really don’t ever expect to have, but then when it comes, it’s a huge honor.
At the same time, it’s an awesome privilege. And so that is a heavy burden ... particularly when you’re facing something like a global pandemic and recognizing that the responsibility for protecting the health and safety of everyone on the installation is my responsibility.
What are you and your family most looking forward about living in Tampa?
Being near family is the thing that we’re looking forward to most.
With military children, they rarely get a chance to live near cousins, so to be near four cousins right here in the local area, it’s just something really special.