A Smethport native has just received a promotion of note — Lt. Col. Jason L. Woodruff has been named as Commander of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard.
“I am honored and humbled to be a part of this group. This team that I lead are the best of the best, and my job is to remove obstacles,” Woodruff said Tuesday. “They can do the job. They are rockstars.”
U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Commander, Lt. Col. Jason C. Harris, previously held the post. A ceremony on July 12 officially passed the command to Woodruff. During that ceremony, a wreath was laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as a symbol of the continued partnership between the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard and the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Association to preserve and honor history.
Per the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard website: “The mission of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard is to represent Airmen to the American public and the world. The vision of the USAF Honor Guard is to ensure a legacy of Airmen who: promote the mission; protect the standards; perfect the image; and preserve the heritage.”
As the commander of the honor guard, Woodruff explained he will be leading 300 young, enlisted airmen.
“My unit here is handpicked; we handpicked the best of the best,” Woodruff said. “We go to basic military training — the same thing as boot camp in the Army — and we pick people we want based on leadership recommendations there.”
The Honor Guard has varied duties, all overseen by Woodruff as the commander.
“We do 3,000 burials a year at Arlington National Cemetery — all Air Force,” Woodruff explained. “We also travel to events around the country and around the world. We will be visiting the Netherlands next month and also going to Puerto Rico, possibly in late September.”
When asked whether visiting other locales would be a highlight of his new position, Woodruff said, “I have traveled a lot in my career, so that isn’t a priority. I love the fact that I’m going to work with young military people again; to actually be in a position where I can lead them.”
Woodruff completed an operational career broadening tour in aircraft management. He was the officer in charge of an F-22 aircraft maintenance unit.
“That career broadening experience was working with real military personnel, but most of my career has involved interacting with civilians,” he said.
Woodruff entered the service in 2002, following 9/11.
“I felt like it was the right time,” Woodruff said. “I’ve been in ever since.”
He deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, from May to December 2012. While there, he served as maintenance operations officer with the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron. In that post, he led more than 570 aircraft technicians to maintain a-10C, C-130-H, and HH-60 aircraft in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM objectives.
Woodruff was also chief of the Program Evaluation Division, Mobility and Training Aircraft Directorate, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Woodruff and his wife, the former Melanie Zampogna of Kane, have three children: Sophia, 14; Emma, 10; and Joseph, 5.
Woodruff, who graduated from Smethport Area High School in 1993 and went on to graduate from the University of New Hampshire with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics in 1998, maintains a strong connection to his home community.
“My favorite vacation place is still Smethport; I love coming back home,” Woodruff noted.
Also, Woodruff’s father, Richard Woodruff, his mother, Janelle Raymond and both his brothers, Tim and Ryan, still live in the Smethport area.
One of Woodruff’s nephews graduated from Smethport High School this year, and Woodruff gave the commencement speech to the Smethport Class of 2019.