By Christian P. Hodge, Headquarters Air Force Junior ROTC Public Affairs
/ Published September 02, 2021
Colonel Johnny R. McGonigal took charge as the director of Air Force Junior Officer Training Corps, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., on July 1, 2021. Air Force JROTC comprises almost 125,000 high school and eighth grade students and approximately 1,900 retired officer and senior non-commissioned officer instructors at about 880 high schools in the United States, Europe, Asia and Puerto Rico. (U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo)
Colonel Johnny R. McGonigal took charge as the director of Air Force Junior Officer Training Corps, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., on July 1, 2021.
He is the leader of one of the largest, wide-reaching and most diverse organizations in the entire Department of Defense. Air Force JROTC encompasses approximately 125,000 eighth grade and high school students with roughly 1,900 retired officer and senior non-commissioned officer instructors at about 880 high schools in the United States, Europe, Asia and Puerto Rico.
McGonigal joined the Air Force in 1989 as an air traffic control apprentice and was commissioned through Air Force Officer Training School in 2000. His career includes various staff and operational Theater Air Control System assignments as an instructor senior director, air weapons officer, mission crew commander, director of operations, and squadron commander. He is also a master air battle manager with more than 2,200 hours in the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, including more than 500 combat hours and 150 combat support hours.
In his new position, McGonigal directs the headquarters staff and oversees policy implementation for the world’s largest and most comprehensive aerospace science education program.
He said he is excited to take the reins.
“I was utterly ecstatic to learn I would serve as the new Headquarters AFJROTC director,” said McGonigal. “I couldn’t have imagined a better alignment of personal desires and Air Force requirements.”
McGonigal brings some unique experiences to this youth program.
“Having worked to help develop troubled teens released from a juvenile confinement facility for a year before attending Officer Training School, I feel I understand the importance of building character and citizenship in our nation’s youth,” he said. “Our mission to ‘Develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community’ is vitally important to ensure our next generation is ready for the difficult tasks ahead.”
Also, McGonigal indicated that his two assignments at the Air Force Personnel Center, Joint Base-San Antonio, which were focused on managing assignments and professional development for the Air Force’s rated officers, helped him better understand the diverse needs of today’s Air Force.
“My focus is on the cadets and the instructors who train them. My primary goal is to ensure our headquarters’ staff has the manpower, tools and resources they require to better support the needs of our JROTC instructors and cadets,” he said.
Though relatively new on the job, he has had the opportunity to get out to the field and meet cadets and instructors.
“The instructors I’ve met are absolutely amazing professionals, dedicated to their cadets and programs, and proud to be part of something greater than themselves,” he said. “I would expect nothing less from retired Air Force officers and NCOs who embody integrity, service and excellence.”
He is equally impressed by the AFJROTC cadets he has met.
“These cadets make me optimistic our country will be in good hands long after I’m gone,” he said. “I was blessed to have the opportunity to watch our cadets compete and win at the national Joint Leadership and Academic Bowl competition in Washington D.C., and was utterly blown away at the professionalism and dedication they exhibited.”