HILL AIR FORCE BASE — As a lifelong military man, Col. Ronald Jolly usually doesn’t like to stay in the same place for too long.
But it came as a pleasant surprise when he found out he’d been assigned to command Hill Air Force Base’s 75th Air Base Wing and as a result, extend his stay in the Top of Utah.
Jolly was selected as the new commander of the wing in July, replacing the freshly retired Kathryn Kolbe.
Prior to his new assignment, Jolly worked for a year as the deputy commander of maintenance for Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Center. The colonel said he naturally assumed his next transition would take him away from Hill.
“It was unexpected,” he said of being informed of his new position. “But it was truly nice because my family, we’re used to moving about every two years and so now, here’s an assignment where we’re already sitting. We were thrilled about that.”
Jolly refers to himself as a military brat because his father spent 30 years in the Army. He says there’s not one particular spot that he calls home, but he went to high school in Oklahoma and later went to Oklahoma State University.
“I’ve moved around quite a bit in my life,” he said. “But I tell you what, it’s been nice to be able to stay in the same place this time.”
Part of the reason he was so happy to be staying in Utah, he said, is the mutual appreciation between Hill and the surrounding Top of Utah community.
“The installation truly appreciates the support the community provides and the community seems to really appreciate what we do for our nation,” he said.
As commander of the air base wing, Jolly serves a position similar to that of a city mayor. Nearly 3,000 of the base’s 25,000 military and civilian employees fall under Jolly and the wing provides installation support for the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, two fighter wings and more than 60 other associated units. It also supports operations of the 1,500-square-mile Utah Test and Training Range.
Jolly takes command of the wing in a tenuous time for the Air Force. During the past few years, the air base wing’s operating and maintenance budget has been slashed while the Department of Defense has faced unprecedented budget cuts as part of sequestration. A pair of federal employee furloughs and a complete government shutdown impacted the base last year.
Jolly said things like sequestration and dwindling DOD budgets likely present both the biggest challenge and opportunity to the wing under his helm.
“What we’re faced with, we’ve got to turn it around,” he said. “We need to find efficiencies in our processes. Our focus is on cost-effectives readiness. In the past we’ve been very effective at getting the job done, but now we have to step it up a notch and reduce costs, yet still accomplish the mission.”
“We see what’s happening with today’s constrained environment,” he said. “Everything boils down to how cost effective can you be. You look at your processes, you look at your manning and find out where can you reduce those costs, because you have to.”
In his month on the new job, Jolly said one of the main messages he’s tried to get across while speaking with airmen on base is that he supports them and their families.
“I want them to know that,” he said. “We have to take care of our airmen, because without them, we aren’t going to get the job done. I want to let the airmen know I’ve got their back and I’m fully behind them.”
He says at least part of the reason that message is so important is due to the relationship he has with his own family.
He says when he’s not working, he’s spending time with his family.
“Family,” he said. “It’s all about my family. On the weekends, it’s all about them and the time I can spend with them, so whatever they want to do, for the most part that’s what I’m doing.”
Last year, he says that was snowboarding. Jolly began taking lessons on the board last year and said he chose that route over skiing because he used to skateboard as a youth when his family was stationed at a base in Hawaii.
“We actually do look forward to the winter season,” he said. “We came (to Hill) from Florida, so we had to get used to the cold weather, but I’m looking forward to going up to Snowbasin and some of the other resorts.”
But with the first snow still months away, Jolly has plenty of other things to keep him occupied, most of which takes place behind the gates of the Air Force base.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be a part of this team,” he said. “I always tell my airmen that to lead is to serve and I just look forward to serving with each and every one of them.”