PACAF Airman of the Year returns to Hawaii as OSI Wing Commander

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Hailey Haux
  • Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

Long before he was the Office of Special Investigations Wing Commander for the Pacific Region, he was a high school student in the Civil Air Patrol, learning what it meant to be part of an organization that is committed to serving America’s communities. There he won the Billy Mitchell Award which gave him an opportunity.

With the award, Benjamin Hatch enlisted in the U.S. Air Force with an additional two stripes.

“I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself,” Hatch said. “My grandfathers on both sides were in the military as well as my uncles. I grew up hearing stories about the military and it just had that sense of adventure and going to places you never thought you would go.”

Enlisting in the Air Force under an Open General contract—meaning he didn’t have a job when he went to basic training—Hatch applied to become a Tactical Air Control Party Airman.

“When the tough gets going, they need someone tough to carry on the mission and that’s what I wanted to be,” Hatch said. “I wanted to be the person others could count on.”

Hatch spent roughly four years as a TACP when he won 1999’s PACAF Airman of the Year.

“It meant so much to me just knowing the time it took for my supervisor to write the package,” Hatch remembered. “My raters saw something in me that I never saw in myself and they really pushed me to be the best that I could be.”

It was around that same time that Hatch looked around his dorm room at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, and asked himself what he had to show for his time in the Air Force.

“It wasn’t much,” Hatch laughed saying all he had was a car payment, a big screen TV, and some memories. “That’s when I decided to go to college.”

From there he petitioned to his squadron commander to be released from his career field to become a college intern at one of Hawaii’s child abuse support programs and was approved to do so as part of the bootstrap program.

After finishing his degree, Hatch was at a crossroads—trying to decide if he wanted to stay enlisted or become an officer.

“I’d been very bold and called, yes called, the Wing Command Chief directly for advice,” Hatch laughed. “I’m glad he took my call.”

The young Senior Airman asked his chief if he considered applying for commission after getting his college degree, which the chief replied that he didn’t as he wanted to make a positive impact on the Air Force and thought that becoming a chief was the way to do it.

“I was an E-4 at the time and had quite a ways to go before I could make those kind of changes so I decided to take the officer route,” Hatch stated.

Hatch was selected to become an OSI agent, and because of his experience they put him in positions of leadership that he may not have otherwise been put in.

“Over the years OSI has been a good fit for me and I believe I’ve been a good fit for the organization,” Hatch said, who is now a colonel and commands the OSI Wing based out of Hawaii responsible for criminal investigations and counterintelligence operations throughout the Pacific.

“Having the opportunity to come back here to Hawaii as the OSI Wing commander is really special and knowing that it’s where I started on this journey, I’ve been super blessed,” Hatch said. “Something that has stayed the same over the years is the sense of Aloha here. It’s a great place to be and I’m so happy to be back.”

As the OSI Wing commander aligned to the Major Command level, Hatch sees the direction and vision for subordinate units and supports any resourcing requirements or training his team needs.

“We want to ensure that if there is a case or investigation that we are here to support that team as they get after the truth,” Hatch said. “Being the OSI Wing commander to so many amazing people makes me want to work harder. I have so many talented people on the team and I don’t want to let them down.”

The OSI team in PACAF ensures the mission and people are protected as well as help commanders understand the threat picture in the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility.

“We do all that while maintaining our core competencies with our cases, find the truth and get answers in a timely and efficient manner in a way that supports the good order and discipline and justice,” Hatch said.

Being located on a joint base has its fair share of challenges however, Hatch is no stranger to working in a joint environment.

“I have a huge appreciation of what it truly means to be joint,” Hatch stated. “As a TACP I was able to experience joint planning and operations and see what’s required to be successful through to the execution phase. We’re all different and we come from different cultures. But when you live with another branch of the military, you really learn and understand them and what makes them tick then you can actually communicate with them in their language to maximize the results.”

Along with his appreciation for working in a joint environment, Hatch’s experience as an enlisted TACP gave him an understanding of the enlisted corps.

“I know how talented the enlisted corps is,” Hatch said. “They are true professionals. If you resource them well, tell them why and show them what you want, you will be amazed with the results. I truly valued my enlisted time and draw from my experiences frequently.”

While his time in the Air Force isn’t over, Hatch has been able to reflect on his time serving and the road ahead. “I’m motivated by the opportunity to drive positive change in ways to support PACAF’s role in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Hatch said. “We’re in the Department of Defense’s priority theater competing against the pacing threat. We’re focused on doing all we can to ensure we’re enabling readiness.”