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Landing at SOWF

Scott Howell, Lt. Gen., USAF Retired


I retired from the U.S. Air Force in August of 2021, and was privileged to serve almost all of my 34-year career in the Special Operations community, culminating as the commander of JSOC. But in August of 1992, when I signed into the 20th Special Operations Squadron flying MH-53 PAVELOWs at Hurlburt Field, Florida, I knew very little about SOF – only that everyone I had come in contact with from the Special Operations community had impressed me with their professionalism, competency, and intense mission focus.

Similarly, I was not aware of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation’s existence, and the steady, focused support they were already providing to the families of our fallen.

That would change on October 29, 1992. That evening, during a joint special operations exercise in challenging weather conditions, we lost 12 Army and Air Force service-members when an MH-60G PAVEHAWK crashed near Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake, Utah. I had joined AFSOC just two months prior, and this was a significant emotional event. The following days were spent with memorial ceremonies and remembrances of those we lost. It was during this time that I learned about SOWF, and the educational support provided to the children of our fallen.

I began donating to SOWF each year through the annual Combined Federal Campaign, and as time went on, I became more familiar with SOWF and saw firsthand the tremendous support they provided for our families. Sadly, over time and multiple deployments, I personally knew more and more children who were receiving assistance from SOWF, as I had served alongside their fathers downrange. In May 2021, one month before I changed command of JSOC, we lost SFC Alex Pabon, a JSOC service-member and personal friend, to a long-term illness. He left behind four children and a wife, who also serves at JSOC.

When figuring out ways to continue to serve after taking off the uniform, SOWF was at the top of my list. I proactively reached out to GEN (Ret) Tony Thomas and MG (Ret) Clay Hutmacher asking if there was an opportunity to serve. I was ecstatic when they offered me a chance to serve on the Board of Directors. Before I attended my first board meeting in late 2021, I called Alex’s widow to get her perspective of how we were doing. Unsurprisingly, it was an emotional conversation, and she was effusive in her praise for SOWF and the continued support and outreach she and her kids were receiving.

There are many worthy charitable organizations that do great work and deserve strong support, but for me, I am exactly where I want to be – serving on the SOWF team. Since joining the board, I have supported by speaking at fundraising events in Austin, Texas, Wolf Mountain, North Carolina and Tellico Plains, Tennessee. I’m honored to serve SOWF and am continually impressed by the thoughtful approach to the mission, the unwavering focus on the kids, and the ability to find a way to get to “yes.” I look forward to continuing to serve this great organization.


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