John K. Winkler graduated from Central High in 1981. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and from the U.S. Naval War College in 1999. He lives in St. Louis, MO.
John is currently a captain with Southwest Airlines, but the majority of his career has been spent serving his country. Honors he has received include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal. In 1999 he was selected the 1999 Atlantic Fleet Airborne Early Warning Reserve "Hawkeye of the Year."
In recent years, John has been an integral part of a Naval reserve squadron based in Atlanta. The primary mission of the VAW-77 "Night Wolves" is to support our nation's war on drugs. John devoted himself to building this squadron from the ground up, serving in various leadership positions and finally as commanding officer.
When John took command of the squadron in 2002 the United States had no airborne early warning drug interdiction presence in Central or South America. Upon directive from the highest levels of government, John quickly mobilized his squadron and established bases of operations in El Salvador and Colombia. During his 18 months of command, John's squadron was responsible for stopping over four million pounds of drugs destined for the U.S. VAW-77 is the most deployed squadron in the Navy, averaging 150 days away from home a year.
John originally began his service when he was inducted into the U.S. Navy as a midshipman at the Naval Academy. After graduation he went to flight training and was designated a naval aviator flying E-2C Harkeye Airborne Early Warning aircraft. He served through multiple deployments all over the world on the USS Nimitz and the USS Constellation. He held positions including aircraft commander, assistant operations officer and legal officer.