In a small ceremony, the United States Special Operations Command’s directorate of communications systems dedicated a conference room to Air Force Col. Eric Leon Buchanan, a fallen SOF communicator, Oct. 25, 2012, in Building 501 at the command headquarters.
Buchanan had worked for SOCOM since October of 2004, holding various positions such as deputy chief information officer, chief C4I combat systems development division, and Chief of the CIO division, before his untimely death in May of 2011.
According to his wife, Eric was not the type of person to pat himself on the back, so he would have been a little reluctant to accept such recognition.
“Eric would’ve wondered why everyone was making a big fuss over him. He was a humble person who loved his job and the people he worked with,” said Anna. “I feel that on one hand he’d be wondering why he’s being honored and not everyone he worked with, but on the other hand, he’d be proud of his accomplishments."
The last job Eric held at SOCOM was as the Chief Technology Officer, responsible to the J6/Chief Information Officer for formulating policy, funding, and modernizing Special Operations unique communications and information technology systems portfolio supporting the day-to-day global operations of the Air Force, Army, Marine, and Navy Special Operations Forces. It was a position that John Wilcox, J6-Communications director, knew Eric was perfectly suited for from the moment he interviewed for the position.
“Quite frankly, Eric was a very, very technically proficient guy and once we heard that at the interview and saw that….we made the decision that he was the right person to take SOCOM technologically into the next generation,” said Wilcox. “When you combine Eric’s technical capability with his gift of gab, you put that together…he was the guy to take us into the next century.”
The dedication was attended by Eric’s wife, Anna, their daughter Rosina and grandchildren, coworkers, and dignitaries from throughout the command, providing an opportunity for those present to hear how Eric’s efforts were felt throughout the command.
“It humbles me to know the impact Eric made on SOCOM and J6, to have this honor bestowed upon him,” said Anna. “I only wish the circumstances were different and he was with us all to show how much he was, and still is loved and appreciated.”
Even though his early departure from SOCOM was a shock to all of those that knew him, the imprint that he left behind will never be forgotten.
Mr. Wilcox said Eric wasn’t only about ‘kit’, procuring needed equipment, although he was clearly a great guy in fielding the equipment, but Eric also had a unique capability to walk into a room of 25 really angry people and walk out with 25 new best friends, and a check for the next project.
“I don’t know how he did it but he could walk in and calm the waters,” said Wilcox.
Wilcox reflected on Col. Buchanan as always having a quick wit and always armed with a joke, but someone who understood the environment and could use humor to be successful.
“I think the proof is in the pudding about what we have down range and how it’s been fielded, and how we have satisfied customers using our equipment,” Wilcox said. “It’s because Eric knew when to use humor, and that indirect approach is often the most successful.”
“My husband felt that the most important thing he could do was to serve his country and to ensure those in uniform had all that was needed and that if he could help in keeping them safe, then he had done his job,” Anna said.
Even during Eric’s final days, he still had the mission at the forefront and was still focused on getting the operators in the field the gear they needed.
“To the end he was supporting SOF operators and SOF war fighters down range with capability,” Wilcox said. “And that’s typical of what he did for his years serving at SOCOM…meeting the operational needs of the war fighter.”
Col. Buchanan will forever be immortalized into the history of SOCOM with a plaque honoring him adorning the entrance of the conference room, and his wife expressed what it means to have her husband honored.
“I’m grateful to SOCOM [and] J6 for acknowledging the dedication and hard work that Eric gave to them while working there,” said Anna. “I would like to say ‘Thank you’ for all you’ve done to preserve my husband’s memory and to know that I consider them part of my family.”