Military News

Friday, July 11, 2014

Spangdahlem welcomes new Saber Lead

by Airman 1st Class Dylan Nuckolls
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs


7/11/2014 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Before hundreds of Sabers, local leaders and an F-16 Fighter Falcon fighter aircraft, U.S. Air Force Col. Peter Bilodeau took command of the 52nd Fighter Wing during an assumption of command ceremony at Hangar 1 here July 11.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, 3rd Air Force commander, presided over the ceremony in which Bilodeau, former commander of the 8th Operations Group at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, took charge of the wing led by the former commander, Col. David Julazadeh.

"As you take command of this wing, I charge you with three things: motivational mission accomplishment, taking care of our Airmen and families, and improving and innovating on everything we do," said the general, who also served as wing commander here from 2006 to 2008, to Bilodeau. "The 52nd Fighter Wing is vital to the success of (U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa's) Forward-Ready-Now posture. Make this your own wing. Lead these Airmen who are the greatest asset that our Air Force has to offer."

Bilodeau inherits the mantle as the wing's 26th commander since its activation as the 52nd Tactical Fighter Wing in December 1971. He is also a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours, including 450 combat hours over Serbia and Iraq in operations Allied Force, Southern Watch, Northern Watch and Iraqi Freedom.

This command represents his second assignment at Spangdahlem Air Base, having last served here in 1996 through 1999 as a combat pilot, assistant chief of weapons and F-16 instructor pilot for the then-23rd Fighter Squadron.

"We know Spangdahlem's mission of defending American and allied interests and building partner capacities, which is very, very important," said Bilodeau during his first address to the wing. "I intend to continue that and work as hard as I can."

The commander then identified his priorities in addition to the wing's mission and in tandem with higher command initiatives.

"Here's what we have to do: project air power as necessary if called upon by combatant commanders and, when in-garrison, to organize, train and equip to the highest readiness levels - that is our charge," Bilodeau said. "We will be in line with the commander of USAFE's Forward-Ready-Now initiative and with General Roberson's motivational mission accomplishment, taking care of Airmen and families, and improving and innovating."

As Saber Lead, Bilodeau now assumes command of five groups, 24 squadrons, 16 geographically separated units spread across five countries with approximately 4,500 active duty military members, 6,000 family members, 250 U.S. civilians, 850 host-nation employees and 300 retirees.

"I know that you will respect the office of the 52nd Fighter Wing commander," Bilodeau said. "I don't ever doubt that. But Pete Bilodeau has to earn your respect."

An assumption of command is a military tradition that represents a formal transfer of authority and responsibility for a unit to a commanding officer. The wing's ceremonies also included Spangdahlem-unique customs alluding to the base's lineage.

Col. Lars Hubert, 52nd FW vice commander and acting wing commander since May, passed a ceremonial saber to Bilodeau, in a practice dating back to the 1980s.

Staff Sgt. Bradley Buckner, a 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief, unveiled the commander's name emblazoned on the wing's flagship F-16.

Finally, in closing his address as well as beginning his command, Bilodeau called upon all Airmen in attendance to shout out the 52nd FW's motto:

"Sabers!"

"Seek! Attack! Destroy!"

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