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A/TA Salutes the Life of Founding Member Colonel Robert Ellington, USAF, Retired

The Airlift/Tanker Association salutes the life of founding member Colonel Bob Ellington, USAF, Retired, who took his final flight into the wild blue yonder at the age of 85 in Plant City, Florida on February 28, 2018 with his family by his side.

Colonel Ellington was born in East Ellijay, Georgia on May 1, 1932. After attending North Georgia College in Dahlonega, Georgia, he entered the Air Force Aviation Cadet program in 1951 and eventually became a pilot qualified in several U.S. Air Force aircraft. His career included three years with the United Nations Command in Jerusalem, flying a C-47 as the Command Pilot for the U.N. Military component, plus an assignment with the 48th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. During the Vietnam War, he flew C-130s with the 315th Air Commando Wing, whose mission was to support Special Forces ground troops, plus he worked on the 834th Air Division staff in Vietnam. The 834th played a crucial role in providing airlift support for the Vietnam War, and Ellington helped develop new concepts of operations and requirements that continue to be employed in today’s air mobility forces.  These include Airlift Control Elements (ALCEs), Tactical Airlift Liaison Officers and the MAC (Military Airlift Command) ALCE Reaction Communication system, or MARC.

As part of his officer professional development, Colonel Ellington graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and the National Security Management College. He also trained as an Air Force aeronautical engineer and served as the Director of Command and Control, Department of Defense Airlift Systems, at Headquarters Military Airlift Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, at the culmination of his military career.

Colonel Ellington retired from the United States Air Force in 1980 after serving his country for 29 years. His military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with five Bronze Service Stars, United Nations Service Medal, Expeditionary Forces Medal, Legion of Merit, Air Force Longevity Service Award, National Defense Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Champaign Medal, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with one Oak Leaf Cluster. After leaving the Air Force, Colonel Ellington continued to share his experience and knowledge through consulting work in the aerospace design industry until his permanent retirement in 2000.

Colonel Ellington was one of ten founding members of the Airlift/Tanker Association. In 1969, then-Major Ellington played a key role in organizing a reunion of those who had served with the 834th Air Division in Vietnam, from which emerged the Airlift Association and its successor, the Airlift/Tanker Association in 1992. As a founding member, Colonel Ellington continued to actively support the organization for over 49 years, including serving as its president from 1981 to 1983 and as its chairman from 1983 to 1985. During a special recognition ceremony held during the Awards Banquet at the 37th Annual Airlift/Tanker Association Convention & Symposium on October 30, 2005, Colonel Ellington received a plaque replicating a monument to the founding members of A/TA, which is now located on the Airlift/Tanker Walk of Fame at Scott AFB, Illinois.  This coming October, the Airlift/Tanker Association will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

“The A/TA family is saddened by the loss of one of our founding fathers, Colonel Bob Ellington.  Bob’s outstanding leadership over the years laid the bedrock for the organization’s many successes. He will surely be missed.”

A/TA Chairman, General Duncan McNabb, USAF, Retired

Colonel Ellington is survived by his loving wife of 38 years, Patricia; six children, Mike Ellington, Steve Ellington, Ann Pasquino, Lisa Graham, Charlene Yelton, Shannon Gordon; nine grandchildren; and his brother, Edward Ellington. A Celebration of Life service will be held Saturday, March 17, at 2 pm at Stowers Funeral Home in Brandon, Florida. Burial with full military honors will be on Monday, March 19 at 11 am in the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made online to the A/TA Scholarship Fund in Colonel Ellington’s name at

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