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Col. Burgess bids 307th Bomb Wing farewell

Friends and family spray Col. Burgess with water as he laughs.

U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Burgess, 307th Operations Group commander, reacts to a spray of water from family at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Jan. 11, 2020. Burgess had just completed his final flight as a B-52 pilot. Several friends and family were on hand to greet him after the flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)

Photo of two Airmen speaking.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Burgess speaks with Col. Steven Kirkpatrick, 307th Bomb Wing commander at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Jan. 12, 2020. Burgess had just retired and Kirkpatrick was speaking with him in the reception line. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Callie Ware)

Col. Burgess and his wife hug on the flight line.

U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Burgess, 307th Operations Group commander, hugs his wife, Martha, at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Jan. 11, 2020. Burgess, a B-52 Stratofortress pilot, was greeted by several friends and family members after competing his final flight aboard the jet. He retired Jan. 12 after more than 30 years of service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)

Lt. Burgess salutes flag as Col. Burgess holds it.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Burgess accepts a U.S. flag from his son, 2nd Lt. Adam Burgess, at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Jan. 12, 2020. The presentation was part of Col. Burgess’ retirement ceremony. Col. Burgess served more than 30 years in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Callie Ware)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --

Friends, family and fellow Airmen were on hand for the retirement ceremony of Col. Robert Burgess, 307th Operations Group commander, held here Jan. 12, 2020. 

The Nashville, Tennessee native served more than 30 years and racked up 5,300 flight hours, with 200 of those combat hours.     

U.S. Air Force Col. Robert VanHoy II, Mobilization Assistant to the Director of Strategy, Plans and Programs, Headquarters Pacific Command, served as presiding officer for the ceremony.  In a speech, VanHoy alluded to Burgess’ dedication.

“Rob taught me if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,” said VanHoy. “He found his passion and he loved coming to work every day.”

Burgess gained his commission through the Air Force Academy in 1989.  He completed undergraduate pilot training before deciding to join the Air Force bomber community.

“Going into the Academy, I wanted to be a fighter pilot and fly F-15’s, but after meeting all the bomber instructors I feel I got the better deal,” said Burgess.  

After completing combat crew training he was served on nine years on Active Duty at the 62nd and 20th Bomb Squadrons at Barksdale and the 23 BS at Minot AFB, N.D.   

Following his active duty time he returned to Barksdale as an instructor pilot with the 93rd Bomb Squadron.

The next fifteen years saw Burgess serve in several roles within the 917th Operations Group, including evaluator pilot, Standardizations and Evaluations chief and director of academics.

Burgess took on more responsibility when the 307th Bomb Wing was reactivated in 2011, replacing the 917th Wing.  He was tapped to command the 343rd Bomb Squadron, where he served until being named commander of the 307th Operations Group in 2015.

There, he implemented a simple, but effective leadership philosophy.

“I just hired great people and got out of their way so they could do their job,” he explained. 

The approach paid off.  Burgess oversaw a formal training unit that kept up a demanding pace, training all B-52 Stratofortress aircrew in the Air Force.  He also influenced the success of the 343rd Bomb Squadron, which was recently name Best Bomb Squadron in the Air Force during the Air Force Global Strike Challenge.

Burgess summed up his service during his retirement speech.

“The best years of my life, so far, have been in the Air Force,” he said.  “Friendship is the number one thing I’m going remember from my career.”