Colonel Merkel is the Vice Commander of the 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, Truax Field, Madison, Wis. As Vice Commander he assists the commander in ensuring that mission objectives, policies, and operational directives are effectively executed within the wing. The 115th Fighter Wing operates the F-16 Fighting Falcon as its primary weapons system, and is home to over 1,100 personnel authorized in direct support of this global mission.
Col. Merkel is from Milwaukee and graduated from Marquette University in 1994 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He commissioned into the Marine Corps through the Platoon Leaders Course program in 1994 and attended Naval Flight School, earning his wings in July, 1997. Col. Merkel flew the F/A-18 Hornet and was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Calif. He deployed on the USS Stennis aircraft carrier to Iraq in 2000 and to Afghanistan in 2002. He was then assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron in Yuma, Ariz., and served as a weapons school instructor pilot from 2002 to 2005. In 2006 he transferred to the Marine Corps Reserves where he flew the F-5 as an adversary pilot. In May 2009, Col. Merkel transferred to the Wisconsin Air National Guard and joined the 115th Fighter Wing. He completed an F-16 transition course at Luke Air Force Base. As an F-16 pilot, he has deployed with the 115th Fighter Wing to Djibouti, Africa; Kadena Air Base, Okinawa; Lask Air Base, Poland; and Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. He served as the Aerospace Control Alert (ACA) Commander from 2011 to 2013, and Operations Support Squadron (OSS) Commander from 2013 to 2018. In February 2018 he stood up a Unit Conversion Office for the 115th Fighter Wing in preparation for the wing’s conversion to the F-35. Prior to his current position, the Colonel maintained the UCO for the 115h Fighter Wing, Truax Field, Madison, Wis.
Col. Merkel is a command pilot with over 3400 flight hours in the F-16C/D, F/A-18C, F-5, TA-4J, T-2C, and T-34C.
1992, 1993 Officer Candidates School, Marine Core Base Quantico, Va.
1994 Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Marquette University, Milwaukee
1995 The Basic School, MCB, Va.
1995 Naval Flight School, Naval Air Station Pensacola Fla.
19XX Naval Flight School, NAS Whiting Field, Fla.
19XX Naval Flight School, NAS Meridian, Miss.
1998 F/A-18 training, NAS Lemoore, Calif.
2009 F-16 transition training, Location
2009 Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
2014 Intermediate Development Course, Location
2017 Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
2019 Project Management Professional, Project Management Institute, Location
August 1994 – Jul 1998, (Various) Official Duty Title, unit, base and state
September 1998 – July 2002, Marine Fighter Training Squadron (VMFT) 314, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (MCAS), San Diego, Calif.
August 2002 – December 2005, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One, MCAS Yuma, Ariz.
January 2006 – April 2009, VMFT-401, MCAS Yuma, Yuma, Ariz.
May 2009 – Present, 115th Fighter Wing, Truax Field, Madison Wis.
Rating: command pilot, civilian ATP rating
Flight hours: more than 3,400
Aircraft flown: F-16C, F/A-18, F-5
MAJOR AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Aerial Achievement Medal
Joint Services Commendation Medal
Navy Commendation Medal
EFFECTIVE DATES OF PROMOTION
Second Lieutenant, May 1994
First Lieutenant, May 1996
Captain, May 1998
Major, July 2004
Lieutenant Colonel, Feb 2010
(Current as of February 2021)