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Meet the Pooles: Service & Adventure

  • Published
  • By Karen Petitt
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Team Scott welcomed the new 375th Air Mobility Wing commander, Col. John Poole, and his wife, Shellye, and family during a Change of Command ceremony here July 14.

Since then, they’ve been settling into their home and their new roles. Soon their oldest son, Britton, will be a senior in high school; their daughter, Everlye starts 8th grade, and youngest son, Griffin, will be in 6th grade.

The commander has been meeting with his new team and began immersion tours within the groups and squadrons. Shellye is eager to get involved with the numerous groups and organizations designed to support Airmen, spouses and their families here, especially the families of the deployed.

“We recognize that time is short, and we want to savor this experience we have together as a family and in our new roles,” said the commander.   

Shellye added, “It’s so easy to get caught up in the calendaring and what’s happening weeks away, but we want to focus on what’s happening today and be intentional with that time that we have.”

For the wing, the commander said he’s focused on building upon the strong foundation that’s already been laid, and to do all he can for combat readiness. 

“I want to be able to make a difference … to ensure that what we do matters and that it’s contributing to our national security,” he said. That will involve a few weeks of absorbing how the wing operates and then move out with any adjustments as needed.

Behind the scenes, that also means focusing on the traditions and goals they’ve set as a family. For example, one fun goal—or quest as they refer to it—is to visit all the Major League Baseball stadiums by the time Britton graduates. They have visited 25—with five more to go.

“This has been a vehicle that has forced us to visit places we may never have gone to otherwise, such as Pittsburgh or Milwaukee, for example. Both cities surprised us with their beauty and variety of activities,” he said. 

Exploring new places is one of their favorite activities. When they were first stationed in Washington D.C., they kept their kids out of sports and activities that first year so they would be free to visit all the museums, parks and historical areas on their list.  They were unsure if they’d return there so they set a pattern of seeking out places to visit no matter where they were stationed.

Constant moving around was something the commander had grown up with and was used to doing.  As a physician, his father moved around for school and training before being recruited as a flight surgeon for the Air Force. As a youth, the commander had attended 10 schools in 12 years, including high school overseas at Incirlik, Turkey.  The longest that he lived in one place was 4 ½ years while in college at Texas A&M. 

Growing up, he said his parents modeled what faith, family, education, and work should look like. They modeled a strong work ethic, and how to create a solid foundation in a family that could thrive off of constant change. This blossomed into a desire to serve in the Air Force, and after his ROTC commissioning, the commander was assigned to New Mexico and Mississippi before attending formal training as a C-130 pilot in Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, where he would meet his future bride.

Shellye’s life was the complete opposite of his as she lived in the same town—moving only once and just down the street from her old house. She would travel about two hours away to see her grandfather who owned a business and where he taught her the value of hard work and saving money. All the money she earned there while she was growing up went into savings bonds that she was able to use toward school when she went to college.

She earned her education degree in a college about 20 minutes away, and her masters in a school about 40 minutes aways. She followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a teacher, eventually teaching alongside her and in the same elementary school where she grew up.

It was here in 2004 that their paths would cross through mutual friends. She had been organizing a wedding for a friend who had pointed him out to her. She agreed to a “group date,” but afterwards they decided to do their own date at a local waffle house that was open late.

“We were older—I was 29 and he was 27—so I quizzed him on what his intentions and goals were,” she said. “I wanted to get right to the point. We dated for four weeks and then he deployed.”

This gave them a chance to get to know each other through email, something she cherishes to this day.  She likes that their budding romance and the milestones contained therein were written down. She hopes to compile it into a book for their kids one day.  After six months of this, he returned and they were engaged. After another deployment that began in December, they were married June 10, 2005.

It was his spontaneous nature and organizational skills that attracted her, and it was her directness and authenticity that attracted him, and together they’ve blended these and other qualities into a life of service and adventure.

 After the Little Rock assignment, they moved to Dyess AFB, Texas, in 2006 where they experienced a life changing event and first major challenge. She gave up her job, family and friends and moved with their infant son to this new place in the “desert of west Texas.”  Weeks after their arrival, he got orders to deploy in place of someone else who was involved in an accident. Thinking it was the best thing to do at the time, she returned home to her family during the deployment but now realizes the missed opportunity.

“I had no idea about the Key Spouse program, and I wasn’t connected to anyone in the unit,” she said. “That’s when I learned how valuable it would have been to have had friends at the new base or a Key Spouse to rely on. Once I learned about the programs, got connected and went to the activities, I had a better experience. I eventually became a Key Spouse for the next few deployments and was immersed in the culture and felt useful to others.  This is why the Key Spouse program is so important to me.”

Their assignments have brought them to Scott twice before this—once in 2011 while his father served—and retired—from U.S. Transportation Command. The commander served at 18th Air Force during this stint, and then at Air Mobility Command in 2017. They’ve also lived in Alabama and went to Washington, D.C., twice, and lived a year in Miami in 2020 while he served as a transportation liaison officer to U.S. Southern Command. After that is when they returned to Dyess for his group command assignment before arriving here to take the wing command.

While they’ve enjoyed all their assignments for various reasons, they do have a special place in their hearts for the time in Miami. It was the COVID lockdowns that gave him an opportunity to work from home a few days a week and the family enjoyed being at the beach every chance they got. But more than that, they felt that it was a time to just reset.

Shellye said they spent all their time outside and visited the national parks in that area. They appreciate nature and the time they had together—just them.  He said it was a restful time and they all had the ability to recharge, even with two hurricane response efforts.

Other special memories for him include the eight deployments he’s been part of due to the special bonds that were created with each crew. Those friendships have remained important to him and is part of what he enjoys about military life. In addition, he said he recognizes the special opportunities he’s had to attend challenging and difficult programs, such as the Weapons School, the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, or a doctorate in military strategy to name a few.

“Rising to the challenge of these programs has given me another set of skills and have opened doors to other opportunities that may not have been available before. When those doors open, you still have to perform, so I’m thankful to have taken on these challenges. It circles back to the power of education and hard work … and the difference that it makes,” he said. 

And with that, the Pooles have hit the ground ready to serve and immerse themselves in the wing. During his time as commander, he said he plans to do all that he can to make our Airmen successful by building upon the wing’s combat readiness focus and innovations that improve warfighting capability.