LOUISVILLE, Ky. –
Col. Hans F. Otto assumed command of the 123rd Medical Group during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base here Sept. 11, replacing Col. Michael A. Cooper, who is retiring.
Otto, a medical doctor and 25-year military veteran, last served as commander of the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 445th Aerospace Medicine Squadron at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The 445th supports more than 2,000 military members from two wings and multiple geographically separated units.
Col. Bruce Bancroft, commander of the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing, welcomed Otto to the base, calling him an exceptional leader.
“Col. Otto brings an extremely impressive resume to the stage today,” Bancroft told the audience. “From chief of Internal Medicine at Osan Airbase, South Korea, to medical director at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; from a fellowship at Wilford Hall, to chief of Aerospace Medicine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Col. Otto brings a wealth of experience to this wing.
“He's made a difference with every assignment. And as we like to say around here, he has the metal to prove it: physician of the year, best specialty clinic of the year, primary care clinic of the year, squadron of the Year, just to name a few.
“Hans, for the short time I've known you, I already know that you attribute all those accolades to the incredible Airmen in your charge,” Bancroft continued. “But those awards don't happen without solid leadership. The leadership that you bring to the table and the leadership that you've inspired in your teams is readily apparent. I look forward to the heights we'll take our medical group in the coming years.”
Cooper, who is stepping down after a military career spanning more than three decades, called Otto “a man of tremendous character.”
“Those of you who have had the chance to get to know him already can see that his resume is absolutely impeccable,” Cooper said. “He is someone with whom I have shared a friendship now for 11 years, starting when we served together at the 445th. I had to have someone with his character and with his ability in order for me to turn (command) over today.
“I’m so proud to be able to turn that guidon over to you today, Col. Otto. Godspeed. I wish you the best as you take this unit to the next level.”
Cooper, who served as commander of the 123rd Medical Group since 2014, then relinquished the group’s guidon to Bancroft, who bestowed it upon Otto, formally recognizing the transfer of power.
Otto expressed appreciation to his family for their support, and to Cooper for his decades of superior leadership.
“I'd like to thank you for your tireless work these last 30 years, and for the excellent example that you have set,” Otto said, addressing Cooper directly.
For the Airmen of the 123rd Medical Group, Otto promised a clear path forward — focused on mission achievement and personnel development.
“As your new commander, I’m humbled by the caliber of people here — the warriors that I get to keep company with. Your commitment to this wing as well as to the medical group is awe-inspiring. You epitomize those Air Force core values of integrity first, excellence in all you do and service before self.
“I am here to give you your direction, to tell you my commander's intent, and then to remove obstacles for you to achieve those goals,” he said. “We will get there together, and we will focus on the commander's priorities, (which are) threefold. We have a peace-time mission of medical care. We have a wartime mission to be ready for the next fight — and that could be as soon as tomorrow. And we have a third priority of developing our Airmen.
“We will focus more on these over the coming weeks and months,” he added. “But for the rest of today, I'm proud and honored to get to celebrate Col. Cooper.”
Otto holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Wright State University, a master’s in business administration from the University of Massachusetts and doctorate of medicine from Ohio State University. He is board certified in allergy/immunology.
The flight surgeon and physician received his commission in 1997 through the Health Professions Scholarship Program, and served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve for the next four years while attending medical school. Upon graduation in 2001, he entered active duty to begin a three-year internal medicine residency at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Throughout his career, Otto has served in various roles leading primary care and specialty clinics, squadrons and deployed expeditionary groups.
In his civilian capacity, Otto is medical director of clinical operations, partner and practicing allergist/immunologist in what is now the nation’s second largest allergy/immunology group. He has been recognized annually by Cincinnati Magazine as one of the region’s "Top Doctors" since 2013.
The Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Medical Group is comprised of more than 100 personnel who provide medical support to 1,200 Airmen here. The unit also provides combat support to Air Force units worldwide, as well as homeland defense and disaster-response capabilities.