New wing leaders' roots stem from same place

Col. Shaun Perkowski, 167th Airlift Wing commander, administers the oath of office to Col. David V. Cochran, wing vice commander, during Cochran's promotion ceremony, Nov. 15 at the 167th Airlift Wing. Both colonels began their careers in 1985 at the United States Air Force Academy. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Col. Shaun Perkowski, 167th Airlift Wing commander, administers the oath of office to Col. David V. Cochran, wing vice commander, during Cochran's promotion ceremony, Nov. 15 at the 167th Airlift Wing. Both colonels began their careers in 1985 at the United States Air Force Academy. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- In July 1985, two young men reported to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co. They had no idea idea that decades later the Air Force would bring them back together.

Although their paths never crossed as cadets, 28 years later they've teamed up
to lead a wing together through changes and into a new era.

Col. Shaun Perkowski, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing, and Col. David V. Cochran, the wing's vice commander, graduated from the same Air Force Academy class in 1989. Each took on their new roles as the wing's leadership just a few months apart.

An Akron, Ohio native, Perkowski said his desire to serve in the military was a result of his father's service in the U.S. Navy.

"Going to the academy, you're going into a career rather than a specific job," Perkowski said. "You can go in so many directions and [introduced] you to so many
leadership opportunities."

The only direction Perkowski was looking to go was up. Upon graduating from the academy, he went on to undergraduate pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. After serving as an instructor pilot, he was assigned to Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

For Cochran, the desire to fly that started at a very young age, is what sparked his interest in the academy. He was the first in his immediate family to serve in the military and said the competitiveness as well as quality of education was a draw.

He also earned a pilot slot, graduated from pilot training at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., and was assigned to fly the C-130 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. It was the C-130 that would eventually bring the pair back together in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Cochran met a commander from the 167th while he was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., who told him about the Air National Guard and the mission in Martinsburg. As a Virginia native, he was able to remain close to his family and continue his military career once his commitment on active duty was met.

Perkowski learned about the 167th after meeting a C-130 aircrew from Martinsburg while stationed at Pope AFB.

While Cochran studied engineering at the academy, Perkowski majored in English. They differ in skill sets and personalities, but Perkowski said that's what makes them such a great team.

"What you don't want is a clone of yourself," the wing's commander said. "You want someone who can think differently and offer different ideas."