08/19/08 — Col. John Hruby takes helm of operations group at SJAFB

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Col. John Hruby takes helm of operations group at SJAFB

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 19, 2008 1:39 PM

John Hruby just wanted to play college football.

So when the Air Force Academy offered him that chance, he jumped on it.

Col. John Hrtuby

4th Fighter Wing Operations Group Commander, Col. John Hruby.

"I was just like any other 16-, 17-year-old kid, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life," Hruby said. "I went up there when I was a junior and thought, 'Yeah. This is kind of cool.'"

Nearly two decades later, the new 4th Fighter Wing Operations Group commander said he had no idea that he would end up trading in his pads and jersey for a flight suit.

"It just sort of happened," he said.

"After four years of football, they said, 'Do you want to go to pilot training?' I said, 'OK. I'll go to pilot training,'" Hruby said. "After pilot training, they said, 'Do you want a fighter?' I said, 'OK. I'll take a fighter.'"

He ended up at Cannon Air Force in an F-111, a distance away from the Cessna 152 he commanded during flying lessons in high school.

Then, years later, he was assigned to what he considers the premier fighter in the world.

"That weapons system was going away so they said, 'Want to go fly a Strike Eagle?' I said, 'You bet,'" Hruby said. "So as you can see, a lot of it was just good timing, good luck.'"

That is how the Air Force colonel sees his career -- good timing, good luck.

"Sure," he was an officer and wanted the chance to be a commander.

But his current assignment is one he never saw coming.

"I'm not sure I would have let myself dream that big," Hruby said.

Not as a young man taking flying lessons, where the "freedom of being up there flying" was the only thing that seemed to matter.

"As a 16-year-old going out to fly, it was just a neat thing that you were doing something dramatically different then your friends," he said.

Not as a tight end on the Air Force football team.

"It was a great experience, but just like anything you do, it's all about the people and the memories you make with them," Hruby said.

Not even the first time he fired up the F-15E Strike Eagle.

"I was just nervous about making sure to get all of the switches right," Hruby said.

So when took on his "dream assignment" earlier this year, he brought with him all those things learned during what he once saw as an unlikely career -- like the notions of discipline and teamwork he found on the football field as a boy.

And a view that the Strike Eagles being commanded by those under his charge are second to none.

"I think it's the greatest fighter in the world today. There might be some out there that are more maneuverable. There might be some that are newer ... but the F-15E is really all things to all people," Hruby said. "You have heard the phrase, 'jack-of-all- trades but a master of none.' Well, I would say because of the capability of the F-15E and because there are two people in that jet, we are definitely the jack-of-all-trades and a master of all. ... because you're working as an integrated team. It really is amazing what you can do."