08/19/08 — Col. Joseph Diana in charge of maintenance group at SJAFB

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Col. Joseph Diana in charge of maintenance group at SJAFB

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

Joseph Diana might have been a pilot.

He thought he would follow through with a dream born at an air show.

But his body held him back.

Col Diana

4th Fighter Wing Maintenance Group Commander, Col. Joseph Diana.

"I came in as a pilot and once it became apparent that I could not fulfill my commitment to be a pilot, they offered to release me," he said. "It was one of those moments where you sit back and say, 'Should I stay or should I go?'"

Today, the 4th Fighter Wing Maintenance Group commander said he is glad he chose to remain in the service.

"The choices I was offered when I was removed from pilot training were fairly limited," Diana said. "But when I saw the opportunity for aircraft maintenance, I knew that, No. 1, it would allow me to remain close to the aircraft, and, No. 2, it would allow me to be a leader."

A military career that nearly ended long ago has culminated, for the colonel, in a significant group command.

And for Diana, watching young airmen battle through adversity with pride reinforces the belief he formed when he decided to remain one of them.

"You can watch an airplane take off and see that afterburner and get some satisfaction," he said. "But what gives me that sense of pride is coming up and talking to one of these young kids, and knowing that they are focused on that task, they want to do it right -- by the book. That always gives me chills."

He knows how difficult their duty is -- that there is a certain amount of pressure associated with the "thousands of tasks they perform each day," particularly when failure means lives are at risk.

He sees the chance to lead them as an honor.

So when he got "the call" from 4th Commander Col. Steve Kwast, congratulating him on his new assignment, he was humbled.

After all, Diana knew the reputation associated with 4th airmen -- and the town that houses them.

"Certainly, it was an answer to my prayers. Having been stationed throughout the Air Force, I knew that wings like the one at Seymour, single-mission wings co-located with small towns, were the best places to be assigned," he said. "The community embraces the relationship, that symbiotic relationship between Seymour Johnson and Goldsboro where it's like we're in each other's DNA. That's why you see two things here. You see community support and airman who want to be here."

So even though a younger Diana saw himself in the skies, he looks at his current assignment in much the same way he has the ones that led him here.

"It would be an awesome opportunity to be able to fly again," he said. "But that inability to do that hasn't taken away from my ability to contribute and do so many other things."