Col. Eries Mentzer, the new Commander of the 42nd Air Base Wing, has been only been in her position for four months, but she’s already homed her laser focus in on teamwork to ensure all on base are enhancing the Maxwell-Gunter experience.
Where are you originally from? I was born on a Naval Air Station. As a result of my father’s career, we lived on the East Coast, the West Coast, in the South and in the Midwest. My father retired when I was in college, where I was an AFROTC cadet. After college, I joined the Air Force, and I have been military connected my entire life.
How long have you been in the Air Force? I have served in the Air Force for 23 years. My husband is a 28-year Department of Defense civilian who works remotely for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. We met on my second assignment and welcomed our son during our Washington, D.C. tour. It has been an awesome journey and truly a joy that my husband and son can share this experience. We are thrilled to join the River Region and humbled by the incredible welcome from the base and community.
What is your focus as Commander? My command chief Chief Master Sgt. Michael Morgan and I are focused daily on “fighting through” COVID. We also remain focused on creating conditions for our 42,000 personnel, Air University and our 48 mission partners to rise to their best daily. We are privileged to lead the women and men of Team 42 in shaping the quality of life and mission for all who live, work, play and rely on Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex. Our goal is to deliver installation support that maximizes the Maxwell-Gunter experience. We are doing this by fostering a fully inclusive environment and getting after barriers that prevent Airmen and their families from rising to their best. We call this “Securing the Freedom to Serve.” We are building on the tremendous accomplishments of those who came before us and partnered with our amazing local civic and community leaders and mission partners to leave Maxwell-Gunter and Montgomery better for those who follow.
What inspires you? When selected for this assignment, I read Mrs. Rosa Parks’ biography. I learned that she worked on Maxwell during WWII, and the integrated public spaces and trolley on our base inspired her. In her words, “You might just say Maxwell opened my eyes up. It was an alternative reality to the ugly policies of Jim Crow.” Following her service on Maxwell Field, she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and sparked a movement that changed our nation for the better. If Mrs. Rosa Parks, a seamstress with few resources or positional power, can change our nation for the better, I ask myself and my Airmen, “What can we do?” On the 65th anniversary of the day Mrs. Parks refused to give up her seat, we unveiled a sculpture in her honor on base. At the ceremony, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed announced a 382-day (number of days of the Montgomery Bus Boycott) partnership between the base and the city to focus on what we can do in the spirit of Mrs. Parks. Mr. Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative is our Maxwell-Gunter inclusion adviser. We are excited to partner with him and Mayor Reed on our inclusion initiative.
Any recent milestones or achievements? Prior to Maxwell-Gunter, I led the transition team for the Air Force Change of Command Ceremony to retire the 21st Chief Of Staff of the United States Air Force and welcome the 22nd United States Air Force Chief Of Staff. We did this while navigating Hurricane Isaias and the COVID-19 global pandemic. With the guidance of amazing public health and planning teams and by embracing new technology to plan virtually, we developed safe, socially distanced transition events, culminating in the historic appointment of the Department of Defense’s first African-American service chief.
As the Air Force Commander of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, I led the first-ever Department of Defense joint base service transfer, transitioning the Anacostia-Bolling mission from a Navy-led to an Air Force-led joint base. It was truly amazing to be part of a joint team and have the opportunity to apply the best practices of the Air Force and the Navy to deliver the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling mission.
Adventures in Alignment
“My family and I love to be outdoors exploring in our travel trailer. We call it ‘getting level.’ We’ve learned in our adventures that if you do not get the trailer level, it can make for a very uncomfortable trip. The same applies for our life. If you are too high (ego) or too low (depleted energy), you are not performing at your best personally or professionally. Our travel trailer allows us to be closest as a family, to get outside, to enjoy new locations, to connect, to reset and relax, and ‘get level’ while exploring.”