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Gunfighters recognize newest group commander

Col. Raul Rosario, newly selected as the 149th Operations Group commander, talks to some members from the 149th Maintenance Group on the flight line after performing routine flying operations June 3, 2016. Rosario is also an F-16 instructor pilot with the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Col. Raul Rosario, newly selected as the 149th Operations Group commander, talks to some members from the 149th Maintenance Group on the flight line after performing routine flying operations June 3, 2016. Rosario is also an F-16 instructor pilot with the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas -- Col. Raul Rosario, an F-16 instructor pilot with the Texas Air National Guard, took  command of the 149th Operations Group during an assumption of command ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, June 10. The assumption of command took place immediately following his promotion ceremony from lieutenant colonel to colonel.

Rosario has been at the 149th OG, a sub-unit of the 149th Fighter Wing headquartered at the installation, since 2002.

Rosario said that having been at this wing for 14 years, the people feel more like family to him and that he feels honored to be able to serve this group of people in this way.

"I feel ecstatic," Rosario said. "I'm so excited to serve the airmen here. Their level of talent and sacrifice gives me the motivation I need to enable them to succeed."

Rosario calls himself a "guard baby," a term referring to military members who have served exclusively in the National Guard. Having spent his entire military career in the Air National Guard, the new group commander said he has a special place in his heart for Drill Status Guardsmen.

"I really want to highlight the importance of our DSG force," Rosario said. "Outside of the Guard, where else can you find such an abundance of people with bachelor's degrees, master's degrees or management-level experience in their civilian jobs? Why would we ever ignore that resource? I want to figure out how to get all that available knowledge to flow up to the group level."

Col. Timothy Madden, commander of the 149th FW who officiated the ceremony, agreed with Rosario about the DSG force and mentioned how he had just learned that two enlisted Guardsmen in one of the wing's units have their doctorates.

"They are just here because they love it," Madden said. "That's our secret weapon I think in the Guard, leveraging the experience our DSGs bring to the force. "It's amazing."

Madden also expressed confidence in Rosario's leadership abilities.

"I see him as a very empowering leader, not one who's telling everyone what to do," Madden said. "Quite the opposite. He's giving guidance and telling them what the expectations are, what the metrics are, then he's letting them go do their job. What better way to get people to perform their best then do to go 'here, it's yours, go.' Instead of saying 'do Step A, and do Step B and do Step C, and don't do any of those until you ask me three times in between.' "

In the early days of Rosario's military career, his dream was to be a fighter pilot, a dream he saw realized. He said that pilot-specific passion has never left him, but that he's also learned "there is so much more to life than just one career field."

"I joined to be a fighter pilot, but I never thought I'd get to do the things I get to do now and be a leader of this cadre of people," he said. "It's very humbling."

Although Rosario said he prefers to stay out of the spotlight when it comes to public events like his assumption of command ceremony, he understands why they're necessary. Still, he'd rather focus on his new responsibilities.

"I just want to be the best group commander I can be to help this group of people succeed," he said. "That's my motivation. To think that day in, day out, people do this - not for the money, certainly not for the fame - but for the pure pride of our nation. How can I sit back and watch them go through all those sacrifices and not do my very best for them?"

When it comes to this unit, Rosario doesn't want to simply focus on today. He is also concerned with tomorrow.

"Each role is so important," he said, referring to everyone's specific area of expertise. "I want to focus not only on what are we good at but on what can we become great at, and each role plays a part in the success of that. How do we make the 149th great today and great for our children tomorrow? How do we posture ourselves to be not just relevant but also the unit of choice for future Guard operations."