Colonel Sonya Finch installed MSG commander

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
  • 185th ARW PA

The Air Force Mission Support Group Commander position has been compared to mayoral duties of a small city only a bit more nuanced. Similar to working as a city manager the MSG commander oversees police and fire departments on the base, utilities functions and something similar to a municipal telephone and internet company.

The MSG position also oversees a good size restaurant, base contracting responsibilities, ensures environmental compliance issues are addressed and oversees the logistics and supply operations of what is best described as a small airline.

Colonel Sonya Finch recently agreed to take on these duties as the 185th Air Refueling Wing’s newest Mission Support Group Commander. The changeover was official following a ceremony this past weekend at the Iowa Air National Guard unit in Sioux City, Iowa.

The February ceremony was an official hand-off of responsibility to Colonel Finch from outgoing Mission Support Commander Colonel Stephanie Samenus who was recently promoted as the 185th ARW Vice Wing Commander.

“I have known Colonel Samenus for many years and I respect her and truly appreciate her. I am honored to be able to replace her in this position,” Finch said in an interview following the ceremony.

A unique part of Finch’s story is that her membership in the National Guard has been exclusive to the state of Iowa since she originally joined the organization as a teenager. Finch is also part of a small club of people who have served in both the state’s Army and Air National Guard organizations.

The Osceola, Iowa native originally enlisted in the Army National Guard as an enlisted member of Iowa’s 34th Army Band in Fairfield where she served for six years before receiving her commission.

Finch also received her commission in Iowa, through the Army ROTC program at the University of Northern Iowa where she graduated in 1999. As a newly commissioned 2nd lieutenant, Finch was trained as an Army helicopter pilot and assigned to the 1-113th Air Cavalry in Waterloo, Iowa.  She said she was initially assigned as a platoon leader and eventually became the commander of E Troop with the 1-113th Cavalry.

Finch had ideas of flying even higher and faster when she made the move to the Air National Guard in 2005 where she planned to become an F-16 fighter pilot at the Des Moines, Iowa based 132nd Fighter Wing. She completed Air Force Pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma but was eventually sidelined from flying fighter aircraft due to a previous back injury.  It was because of her injury that it was determined that risks involved with ejection seat aircraft like the F-16 were too high for her to continue as a fighter pilot.

 “My career has definitely lead me in multiple directions, it has been unique and interesting. I feel very fortunate that I have been able to continue my career doing many unique things all while being in the Iowa National Guard,” Finch shared.

Undeterred, events began to unfold that would have a direct impact on Finches career choices. A couple of twist of fate affecting both Iowa Air Guard units helped guide her toward eventually accepting her new position as the 185th ARW support group commander.

The 185th in Sioux City had converted from flying fighter aircraft to flying the KC-135 in the early 2000’s which allowed Finch to continue as a pilot in her home state flying the larger air refueling aircraft. Several years later the 132nd Wing in Des Moines lost their F-16’s and began flying the MQ-9 Reaper mission. Both mission changes meant Finch was eligible to fly either airframe, which she did.

Finch said she flew with the 185th as a KC-135 pilot until 2013 when she return to the 132nd Wing in Des Moines. She returned to Des Moines in order to help with the unit’s conversion to the new MQ-9 mission where she worked in current operations.

Prior to her return to Sioux City this year, Finch had been working as the State Director of Staff at the Iowa National Guard Headquarters at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, rounding out here resume for serious consideration for higher levels of leadership.

“It’s a challenge, but If I’m better able to serve the Airmen of the Iowa National Guard in this position I will happily do it,” Finch explained.

In her new position as the 185th Mission Support Group Commander, Finch has already begun to oversee the numerous and diverse units that are a part of the air wing’s support group. Similar to being a new mayor, Finch said her priority is to make sure Airmen of the 185th have what they need in order to foster a vibrant community.

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