JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING –
Taking command of a military base with a high-visibility, high-impact mission in the heart of the National Capital Region might seem daunting for anyone. But for Col. Mike “Goose” Zuhlsdorf, assuming command of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling and the 11th Wing as host unit to the installation, it provides an incredible opportunity to use his experience as an Air Force officer, leader and career civil engineer.
With call sign “Goose” stemming from the flock of geese found on the 11th Wing patch, Colonel Zuhlsdorf is just getting started on an incredible journey as a joint base and wing commander.
In an historic milestone for the base and a rare occurrence in the military, Colonel Zuhlsdorf assumed installation command of JBAB from Navy Capt. Jose Rodriguez on June 11, becoming the first-ever Air Force commander responsible for a Navy installation. This was one key move in the initial stages of the base lead service transfer from Navy to Air Force responsibility. The base will remain under the Navy chain-of-command until Oct. 1, 2020.
The responsibility of the 11th Wing, as well as for Goose, is to establish the wing to project the 11th Operations Group U.S. Air Force Band and Honor Guard, provide support to the installation mission partners, set future JBAB teams up for success, and take care of the JBAB Family.
Years of growth and development, as well as a strong foundational background from his parents, supervisors, and peers, has led to Goose earning the position to lead JBAB and the 11th Wing.
Goose grew up in Wisconsin over 1,000 miles from Washington, D.C., where his father served and rose through the ranks as a Wisconsin State Trooper and his mother ran the household as a stay-at-home mom to four children. With his parents as role models and his Catholic upbringing as foundation, he learned discipline was essential. From his love for all sports and team activities, he learned teamwork was a necessity. And as he grew up and enlisted in the Air Force in 1986 as an environmental support specialist, he learned hard work, commitment, and humility laid the path to success.
His parents were supportive from the very start, instilling in him his own personal values: Family. Faith. Service.
“My father and my mother have been so instrumental in laying the foundation for not only myself, but for my three siblings growing up, in all of our respective careers,” said Colonel Zuhlsdorf.
Goose was on a mission from the get-go in his enlisted career as he earned the Air Force Basic Military Training Honor Graduate distinction in 1986, an award earned by exceeding standards as an Air Force trainee. That dedication to service, as well as the accolades that resulted from his hard work, continued from there.
“The opportunity to grow as an enlisted troop for seven and a half years was foundational,” he said.
Honing his leadership skills through the rank of staff sergeant, Goose was selected for the Airman Scholarship and Commissioning Program in 1994 and attended the University of Oklahoma. He earned a degree in civil engineering and commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1997.
He’s put both the leadership skills he’s learned along the way, as well as his knowledge and expertise as a civil engineer, to good use as he worked to build, improve, modify and manage assets on military installations around the globe – from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to remote locations like Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, and Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan. Goose also gained direct warfighting expeditionary experience while deployed to Balad AB and Kirkuk AB, Iraq, and Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
His diverse career experience as an enlisted Airman and civil engineer officer have shaped the way he thinks about tackling problems as a leader.
“I think one of the biggest challenges that I’ve had is growing into leadership positions and working to ensure that the vision that our senior leaders have was understood, so that I could then execute that vision through our tremendous Airmen,” said Colonel Zuhlsdorf.
In his current role as both the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling and 11th Wing commander, Goose has a big vision to make JBAB “Our Nation’s premier Joint Base for National Security readiness, world-class partnerships, and heritage – Sentinels of the Capital!”
“Getting the opportunity to be the first-ever joint base to do a lead service transfer from the Navy back to the Air Force is special,” said Colonel Zuhlsdorf.
Leading through this transfer to meet initial operational capability by Oct. 1 and to full operational capability by October 2022 will be challenging but also rewarding. There is plenty of work in all specialties within the new Air Force wing that will be critical in bringing JBAB into the future.
“We have a lot of work cut out for us,” said Colonel Zuhlsdorf. “We need to put the processes in place within the wing to identify what requirements and what resources we actually need to then enable this non-standard power projection platform.”
The future success of JBAB depends on the valued input and action from teammates of all ranks and organizational levels.
Since assuming command of the 11th Wing at JBAB on June 12, Goose has been on a mission with clear priorities: Ready the Base…Enable Partner Capabilities…Build on our Heritage.
For Goose, readiness is about leading people and building infrastructure, while ensuring the unit is properly organized, trained and equipped to execute their primary missions in support of mission partners on the installation.
“Our team provides that installation support,” said Zuhlsdorf. “As a career civil engineer, I am thrilled to lead and be a part of this organization as we build the team we need, improve our base infrastructure and community planning, and develop a plan to ensure JBAB remains the critical strategic operating location that it is today.”
That can’t be done, however, without the on and off base partnerships that are necessary to the base and community’s success.
JBAB hosts approximately 70 military and civilian agency mission partners to include Marine Helicopter Squadron One, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the White House Communications Agency, the Joint Air Defense Operations Center, United States Coast Guard Station Washington, Navy and Air Force Ceremonial Guards, and many others.
Outside the gate, JBAB must also create, build upon and maintain relationships with local and elected officials, established and rising community leaders, and the people who live and work outside the installation’s fence line.
As he looks over the horizon at the future of the base, Goose recognizes the key role base and wing heritage play in accomplishing the JBAB mission.
“They just celebrated 100 years of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling about a year ago,” said Colonel Zuhlsdorf. “I want to be able to see Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling for another 100 years right here, leaving our own legacy that’s going to build on the heritage this base engenders.”
Leading any installation is no small task. Leading the building of a new wing to support a joint installation with no-fail, critical missions in support of national security objectives is likely to be especially demanding. But Goose is committed to remaining approachable and open with the community in which he lives, serves and leads.
“I appreciate the opportunity to live on the base and be with the community,” said Colonel Zuhlsdorf. “If you see me out with my family, my two beautiful daughters, please know that I want to get to know you and hear from you. Whatever someone’s connection to the base – whether both working and living on the installation, living on base and working elsewhere, or living off base and commuting to work at JBAB – I want everyone on this base to know that I value them as part of our JBAB Family.”