By Staff Sgt. Chloe Ochs, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 08, 2021
LOUISVIILLE, Ky. -- Col. Bruce Bancroft assumed command of the 123rd Airlift Wing during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base here Saturday, accepting the wing’s guidon before an audience of more than 50 socially distanced family, friends and fellow Airmen.
Bancroft, a command pilot with more than 3,600 hours of flight time in multiple aircraft, most recently served as commander of the 123rd Contingency Response Group here. He replaces Col. David Mounkes, who has been named director of policy for air operations, plans and programs at Joint Forces Headquarters — Kentucky.
Presiding over the ceremony was Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Wilkinson, Kentucky’s assistant adjutant general for Air, who formally passed the unit guidon to Bancroft, marking the colonel’s new position as leader of one of the most decorated wings in the U.S. Air Force.
“Col. Bancroft possesses a strong depth and breadth of operational and contingency mobility command experience,” Wilkinson told the audience. “His achievements reflect a stellar record of operational leadership, and he is recognized for his accomplishments and influence across the Air Force for contingency response.”
As commander of the 123rd Contingency Response Group — a post Bancroft has held since 2016 — he oversaw numerous missions and exercises, both stateside and overseas. In 2017, for example, the unit was tasked to operate Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, serving as the most forward-deployed U.S. Air Force unit during the West Mosul offensive. While deployed, the group moved 674 short tons of cargo and 2,000 personnel closer to the fight with ISIS while de-conflicting 4,500 air operations across 2,800 square miles of combat airspace.
The unit also provided humanitarian relief following Hurricane Harvey in 2017, establishing a Disaster Aeromedical Staging Facility in Houston; and was instrumental in response to Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, later that same year, evacuating 3,887 passengers, moving 3,617 short tons of cargo and providing ramp operations to 268 aircraft at what had been a non-functional airfield.
Prior to leading the CRG, Bancroft served as its director of operations, a post he held in 2014 when the unit deployed to Dakar, Senegal, to stand up a Joint Task Force-Port Opening. That air cargo hub, established and staffed primarily by members of the 123rd Contingency Response Group, coordinated the delivery of troops and supplies to West Africa during the largest Ebola virus outbreak in history. As a key component of Operation United Assistance, the hub processed 193 aircraft and 1,200 short tons of cargo during the unit's two-month deployment.
Bancroft joined the active-duty Air Force after graduating from the University of Louisville in 1996 and completed Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. He went on to attend Air Command and Staff College before completing Air War College in 2016.
While on active duty, Bancroft served at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, from February 1996 to March 1998, with the 3rd Aerial Port Squadron as the Operations Center flight commander. The following year, he was selected as the logistics operations officer for Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, supporting special operations forces worldwide.
Upon completion of joint undergraduate pilot training with the U.S. Navy, Bancroft’s career took him to Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, serving the next four years with the 50th Airlift Squadron and flying tactical airlift missions across the globe. From May 2004 to November of 2008, Bancroft served as an instructor pilot, evaluator pilot, chief of standardization and evaluations, and director of instructional flight hours, providing more than 1,800 instructional flight hours to multi-engine student pilots at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas.
In 2008, after 13 years of active-duty service, Bancroft transferred to the Kentucky Air National Guard, joining the 123rd Contingency Response Group where he served as the operations officer. As a Guard member, Bancroft also filled the role of 123rd Global Mobility Readiness Squadron commander.
His career spans more than 25 years and includes participation in Operations Southern Watch, Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Tomodachi/Pacific Passage, Unified Response, United Assistance and Inherent Resolve.
As the ceremony drew to a close, Bancroft took the stage to give his first remarks as commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing.
“The most important and exciting time in the history of the 123rd Airlift Wing is right now,” Bancroft said. “When you look across the Guard and the Air Force as a whole, some units are experiencing drawdowns, an aging fleet of aircraft or, for some, a total loss of mission. In the 123rd Airlift Wing, we are growing in manpower in special tactics and contingency response. We’ve recently opened the doors to a brand-new building across the street, and in November we’re welcoming the arrival of the first C-130 J model.
“That is truly incredible — but none of these events happened by chance. They are a direct result of the long-term, word-class support this wing has provided and will continue to provide to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and our nation.
“We are truly fortunate,” Bancroft continued. “But as our wing motto reflects, fortune does favor the brave, ladies and gentlemen. I look forward to working with you.
“Always ready, always there.”
Wilkinson, the ceremony’s presiding officer, also praised the performance of Col. David Mounkes, outgoing commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, who has held the position for more than five years.
“(Col. Mounkes) excelled at creating an environment where every leader and individual felt valued, respected and heard,” Wilkinson said.
“To all of the 123rd Airmen here today,” Mounkes said, addressing the audience, “you are the wing now and in the future. You are the focus of the mission and all our developmental efforts. Thank you.”