General Patterson retired from the United States Air Force after thirty-three years of distinguished service, during which he served in many important operational and managerial positions.
From 1985 to his retirement in November 1989, he served as the first Commander, Air Force Special Operation Command (AFSOC) and also Commander 23RD Air Force, Military Airlift Command. His joint service responsibility was Air Force Component Commander to the Commander-In-Chief United States Special Operations Command (CINCSOC). As 23RD Air Force Commander, he reported to the Commander, Military Airlift Command. General Patterson commanded all Air Force units responsible for Special Operations; Combat Search and Rescue; Weather Reconnaissance; Atmospheric Sampling; Aeromedical Evacuation; Operational Support Airlift, Flight Facility Inspection; and Nuclear Missile Site Support. Primary focus was on low intensity conflict, counter-terrorism, combat search and rescue, and infiltration/exfiltration of special operations forces into and from denied territory.
General Patterson’s command positions have included two Numbered Air Forces (21ST and 23RD), Air Force Component of two Unified Commands (USSOCOM and USAFE); Airlift Division Commander (834TH); two Tactical Airlift Wings (463RD and 317TH); and Tactical Airlift Squadron Commander (50TH TAS).
He was the senior Air Force officer in Grenada during the American student rescue operation, URGENT FURY. General Patterson headed the Air Force Special Operations planning for operation JUST CAUSE, the removal of President Noriega from Panama.
He has earned the Military Parachutist Badge and is a Command Pilot with over 12,000 flying hours in fifty-three types and models of aircraft. His military decoration and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medals, Meritorious Service Medals and Air Medals. He has received the Order of the Sword and Order of the Bayonet from the Air Force Enlisted Corps. General Patterson was inducted into the Airlift/Tanker Association Hall of Fame in 2008. He is only the fifth person to be named an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Combat Control Association.
General Patterson lives in Peachtree City, GA and works as an Aerospace Consultant in Special Operations, Combat Search and Rescue, and Air Mobility programs. He is on the Board of Advisors, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the Airlift/Tanker Association. He is a founding member of the Special Operations Fund.