An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

910th eagle flies, but memories remain

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Juliet Louden
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A picture is a memory that lasts forever, and displayed in a large frame are many of the unforgettable memories of former 910th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Dan Sarachene’s 29 years of military service.

“The pictures capture what I have done throughout the years,” said Sarachene, leaning over the frame and pointing emphatically to various images. “From pilot training, to my early days of flying, meeting some people along the way and some missions of doing things around the world. Always nice to capture those moments.”

Many of Sarachene’s memories are rooted in the 27 years he served at Youngstown Air Reserve Station. Sarachene became a pilot with the 757th Airlift Squadron here in 1992 and worked his way through the ranks to become commander in 2017. Sarachene relinquished command on Feb. 9, 2019.

“The opportunity was afforded to me by the Air Force Reserve and the 910th AW to become a pilot in the Air Force, which was always a childhood dream,” said Sarachene. “Once I became a pilot, it gave me more opportunities to improve my craft and go all around the world.”

While assigned to the 910th AW, Sarachene visited more than 35 countries. Those experiences varied from around the world missions, including a trip to deliver humanitarian cargo to India, flying low over the Amazon jungle in South America, meeting Robin Williams in Qatar and the highlight of his career, flying Colin Powell, former secretary of defense, into Baghdad, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Although Sarachene has traveled around the world and earned numerous service medals and ribbons including the prestigious Legion of Merit, what he remembers most are moments he created with the people he served with on his 29-year military journey.

“I think one of the most memorable things I will leave here with is the people,” said Sarachene, leaning back and looking into the distance as if reminiscing. “Coming in contact with different people. I think those are the things that stay with you the most. With the accomplishments, you get some awards, you get a trophy here or there, but I think the memories are something that sticks with you for a long time. Whether it is flying Colin Powell or just being on a crew while deployed living in tents, hanging out, watching movies, flying the missions, aircrew stories and just being with people. The comradery on the flight deck while you are flying, the cracking up, the fun and making the most out of challenging situations.”

The importance of teamwork and inspiring others is woven into Sarachene’s leadership approach.

“To me, being a part of the team is the most rewarding aspect,” he said. “People who come together to get the mission done, and do the best for each other. I wanted to be a good teammate and never let anybody down.”
Sarachene feels one of his greatest efforts were in bringing the wing together as a team and creating a unified vision.

“As the commander, I strived to provide some strategic vision,” said the former commander. “I sought to align the efforts of the wing into one direction. I was able to harness the energy and talent that we have here and hopefully put in a good direction to reflect the quality of people toward what is expected of the wing.”
As commander, Sarachene found communication to be the most difficult hurdle to overcome.

“When you have 1,385 people, how do you communicate a vision and what is important down to the lowest level?” said Sarachene. “The importance of everybody in the organization and to inspire them to understand they are part of something bigger than themselves; that is where the selflessness comes in. Sometimes you have to realize it is not about me. The more you relinquish that, the more success you will have.”

Inspiration is an area Sarachene feels is extremely important in helping people understand the significance of their role on the 910th team.

“Although we all come here for a lot of the same reasons, we all come from different places in our lives and different backgrounds,” said Sarachene. “How do I, as the wing commander, try to instill some aspirational aspects to people, and say what you do is important? Everyone has a role. There are no positions here that are just to sit on the sidelines. Everybody is part of the team, and everybody has to give.”

Just as Sarachene remembers people throughout his military career, people at YARS will remember him as a positive, funny and motivating leader who cared about each of his Airmen.

Col. Joe Janik, the new 910th AW commander, has worked with Sarachene since 2014 and thinks highly of the impact Sarachene’s leadership had here. During their change of command, Janik expressed his thoughts to Sarachene and the audience at the event.

“What distinguishes a great leader from a mediocre is that a great leader has a heart for his people,” said Janik. “You have certainly demonstrated that during your time here at the 910th. Commanders should strive to leave their unit better than they have found it. And in my humble opinion, you have accomplished that goal.”

As the wing’s senior enlisted leader, Chief Master Sgt. Bob Potts worked closely with Sarachene.

“One of the things I learned from Col. Sarachene is that there are three important traits of a leader,” said Potts. “For a leader to effectively motivate a follower to action and growth mindset, a leader must be a visionary…be a broker of energy… and…be a dealer of hope.”

Potts went on to say that Sarachene was energizing and used his positive attitude and enthusiasm to motivate people to do their job and achieve the mission.

Maj. Vito Abruzzino, 910th deputy staff judge advocate, expressed Sarachene’s impactful role as a mentor.

“Col. Sarachene was a wonderful mentor who truly showed me how a senior leader should interact with his subordinates and peers alike,” said Abruzzino. “And how to make them feel comfortable and motivated to achieve the wing mission.”

Sarachene’s positive energy was evident throughout the wing.

“I will always remember, until the day I die, when I walked into Col. Sarachene’s office and he was singing, dancing and tapping his pen on his desk to the beat of the Christmas music,” said Tech. Sgt. Kayla Schlund, 910th AW command section administrative assistant. “He is funny and extremely energetic. He is a motivator and thrives to be a good leader. He cares about morale and each Airman. He likes to motivate Airmen to do their best.”

At the end of Sarachene’s change of command farewell speech, he thanked the wing’s Reserve Citizen Airmen.

“I have one thing to do, and that’s recognize all the Airmen behind that Legion of Merit,” said Sarachene. “One person gets recognized, but there’s a lot behind that. I certainly couldn’t have done it without all the Airmen in the wing. So, I’m very proud to be part of your team, and to do that I have to do one thing.”

As his one last thing in his final moments as commander, Sarachene created a permanent picture of his cheery and positive personality and reflecting his belief in the importance of teamwork.

While on stage during the change of command ceremony, Sarachene took out a selfie stick and captured one last smiling memory with the Airmen he led for two years.

When asked what’s next for Sarachene’s military career, he responded in his usual wit by quoting Dwight K. Schrute from “The Office.”

“There’s nothing on my horizon except everything,” said Sarachene, laughing with a huge smile.