Uithoven Leaves a Legacy in Airfield Management

  • Published
  • By Maj. Dustin Culpepper

On a day marked by camaraderie and farewells, Chief Master Sgt. Will Uithoven stepped into the Airfield Management Advisory Council meeting on April 15, 2024, in Gulfport. His purpose was twofold: to reconnect with old friends and to impart wisdom gleaned from his 20-year tenure in airfield management as he prepared to embrace his new role as the senior enlisted leader of the 186th Operations Group.

Little did he know that a surprise awaited him, one that would immortalize his dedication and service in the annals of Airfield Management history.

As the meeting neared its conclusion, a series of awards were presented. Amidst the applause and congratulations, Chief Master Sgt. Bill Prather, the incumbent Functional Area Manager, beckoned Uithoven to join him before the council of ten. Surprisingly, he was about to become the center of attention.

It was then that Prather broke the news to the group that going forward, the award for Airfield Management Excellence would be named the “George W. Uithoven Excellence in Service Award.”

“I was shocked,” Uithoven said.  “I am honored that they would recognize me in this way.  I had no idea what was going on when I walked up there.”

Prather said that the award was named after Uithoven due to his endless dedication to the betterment of the Airfield Management career field. 

“He has helped elevate senior leaders in this community to the highest level of excellence that they would not have otherwise achieved if not for his mentorship and guidance,” Prather said. 

“We have become a deployable asset once again for the first time in over two decades,” Prather said. 

Prather also said Uithoven led the formation of working groups made up of senior leaders from the field to tackle tough tasks, including creating a seven and nine-level training course that resulted in a 100% pass rate in 2023, a historical first in the entire U.S. Air Force.

Prather also said that the council has moved this career field forward in a way that is unprecedented, and each of these accomplishments are rooted in the knowledge, skill, guidance, mentorship, leadership and friendship passed along by Uithoven. 

Uithoven, a Meridian native, said that he entered airfield management in 2003 after serving in numerous roles within the 186th Operations Group.

“I just wanted to make the career field better than I found it,” Uithoven said. “It’s been the greatest job.”

Uithoven said that he has been the Functional Area Manager (FAM) on two different occasions during the interim between managers while maintaining his position at Key Field.   

The role of Airfield Management is to make sure that the airfield at each installation is a safe environment.  They do so by ensuring the primary surfaces as in runways and taxiways are in good working order.  In addition, they make sure imaginary surfaces are free from obstruction for air navigation (such as cell towers, trees, buildings, etc). Uithoven reiterated that every mission begins and ends at the airfield.  

Prather said that this award ensures that Uithoven’s name will live on long after his time in service has come to a close. 

“In my 32 years of service, I’m certain that I have not known of any chief that has had a greater, more lasting impact on a career field than Chief Uithoven.”