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Retiring commander reflects on career, family, faith

Col. Ken Rizer, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander, poses for a photo next to his aircraft after initially completing pilot training. Rizer is slated to retire in a dual change-of-command and retirement ceremony here July 6. (Courtesy photo)

Col. Ken Rizer, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander, poses for a photo next to his aircraft after initially completing pilot training. Rizer is slated to retire in a dual change-of-command and retirement ceremony here July 6. (Courtesy photo)

Next to his F-16 Fighting Falcon, Col. Ken Rizer, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander, poses for a photo. Throughout his career, Rizer gained more than 2,700 flight hours and distinguished himself as an Air Force pilot with various decorations such as: the Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal and the Air Force Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster. (Courtesy photo)

Next to his F-16 Fighting Falcon, Col. Ken Rizer, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander, poses for a photo. Throughout his career, Rizer gained more than 2,700 flight hours and distinguished himself as an Air Force pilot with various decorations such as: the Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal and the Air Force Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster. (Courtesy photo)

Col. Ken Rizer, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander, far left, stands with fellow Wolf Pack fighter pilots after completing their fini flight. (Courtesy photo)

Col. Ken Rizer, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander, far left, stands with fellow Wolf Pack fighter pilots after completing their fini flight. (Courtesy photo)

Air Force Academy cadet Ken Rizer poses for his 1987 senior portrait. After commissioning, Rizer went on to gain more than 2,700 flight hours during his extensive 25-year career. (Courtesy photo)

Air Force Academy cadet Ken Rizer poses for his 1987 senior portrait. After commissioning, Rizer went on to gain more than 2,700 flight hours during his extensive 25-year career. (Courtesy photo)

Walking side by side, President Barack Obama and Col. Ken Rizer, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander, chat on the flightline about the latest football standings. After serving more than 25 years in activeduty military service Rizer will retire in a ceremony here July 6.

Walking side by side, President Barack Obama and Col. Ken Rizer, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander, chat on the flightline about the latest football standings. After serving more than 25 years in activeduty military service Rizer will retire in a ceremony here July 6.

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- After serving more than 25 years on active duty, Col. Ken Rizer, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander, is slated to retire in a ceremony here on July 6. Surrounded by friends, family members and fellow coworkers, Rizer's dual retirement and change-of-command ceremony will commemorate his extensive Air Force career and highlight the many opportunities his decision to serve has afforded him and his family.

Following high school, Rizer sought life goals of becoming a military doctor and playing professional hockey. However, after taking several classes at the Air Force Academy, Rizer's aspirations quickly changed and instead led him to pursue a career as an Air Force fighter pilot.

"I chose the Air Force Academy because it most appealed to my desire to serve and become a professional athlete," said Rizer. "After earning my commission and having a few assignments, I knew I wanted to make this lifestyle a career."

Throughout his time in the Air Force, Rizer has looked back on his initial decision to stay in the military as a good one. Rizer also claims that much of his success in the Air Force has come to him and his family because of their faith.

"My faith is important to me because it defines who I am - it defines how I interact with people; it affects the way I prioritize things; it grounds me," said Rizer. "Ultimately, I think faith is important but, of course, it's everyone's own personal decision. As a commander, I would never push my faith on anyone."

Along with his faith, Rizer acknowledges that he couldn't have gotten as far as he has today without the support of his loving family. Rizer attributes getting through more than 5 years of separation, as well as more than 10 permanent changes of duty stations, to the cooperation, love and support of his family members who have been by his side from day one.

"Doing this type of work, I've learned that families are in this fight every bit as much as the military members themselves are," said Rizer. "For my family and I, communication has been key for us to be able to brave those tough deployments together. On the other hand, when you get through those deployments and you're stronger than ever, time away and learning from those experiences can actually make you tighter as a family."

After retiring, Rizer is slated to celebrate his accomplishment in a unique way by partaking in the Register's Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), a seven-day, 500-mile bike ride across the state of Iowa - the largest and most-notable ride of its kind in the world.

"I've ridden for RAGBRAI before but haven't completed the entire event," said Rizer. "This year, however, I'll be riding as a member of the Air Force's team. We'll be camping every night and riding each day. I can't wait!"

Looking back over more than two decades of selfless service to the Air Force, Rizer leaves a few words of advice for the young Airmen and future leaders who will one day take his place.

"There's not a lot I would have done differently, but if I could change anything, I would have made an effort to get out and see people more," said Rizer. "Overall, Andrews has been my most-memorable assignment. I've had the opportunity to see things and meet with people that isn't afforded to commanders at other bases. If I could say anything to the Airmen who are new to the Air Force now or are thinking of joining, I would tell them that I'm retiring confident. I can't even imagine what kind of challenges our brand-new Airmen are going to face in the future, but I know that these individuals are of the same or better quality of those Airmen who joined when I did. It is an incredibly exciting time to join the Air Force. Enjoy this time while you can; it goes by extremely quickly."