Operations Group changes hands|
by Master Sgt. Eugene Bird
Public Affairs superintendent
6/2/2006 - ALTUS AFB, Okla. -- Col. Mark "Marshall" Dillon relinquished command of the 97th Operations Group to Col. John "Red" Millander in a ceremony held at Hangar 517 Tuesday. Colonel Dillon will remain at Altus Air Force Base and assume the position of 97th Wing vice commander. Colonel Millander arrives at Altus after a two year tour in Germany.
Col. Carlton "Dewey" Everhart II, 97th Air Mobility Wing commander, presided over the ceremony.
"It's a great day," echoed Colonel Everhart's words throughout the hangar as he welcomed community dignitaries including former 97th Operations Group commander, retired Col. "Geno" Redmon.
Colonel Everhart congratulated both colonels and the men and women of the 97th OG for all they'd accomplished. Colonel Dillon began his farewell by recognizing the group's Airmen and civilians.
"It's all about training crews for combat. Because they understand that, the crew members that have graduated from Altus since last October are more mission ready, more tactically focused and more prepared than ever for combat than their predecessors," said Colonel Dillon.
"The drive, initiative and dedication of Lt. Col. Sones and Chapman's troops dispelled those who said you couldn't produces a combat ready, tactically savvy, dual-seat and instrument-qualified pilot right out of pilot training. Today we deliver such a pilot and the operational units in the combat theater are raving," he said.
"Two years ago, it took C-5 units six months to fully qualify a loadmaster after they left Altus; today, because Lt. Col. Kyle Kremer's C-5 experts embrace a combat culture, they produced a mission qualified loadmaster in just 45 days--right here at Altus," he said.
Colonel Dillon received a final salute as the 97th OG commander after recognizing his wife and family, the 58th Airlift Squadron, A-TEAM, the 97th Operations Squadron and the community.
The new group commander, Colonel Millander, also shared his appreciation of the role played by the group's personnel.
"After two years overseas, we're thrilled to be back in the heart of America, but more importantly, we're thrilled to be at the heart of mobility," said Colonel Millander, previously the U.S. Transportation Command liaison to U.S. European Command.
"We are a unique organization, at a unique location in an extraordinary time for our nation. Our resupply capability is unmatched by any in the entire world."
"Train to fly, fly to fight, fight to win. We have very limited and precious time to teach aircrews skills, so we can never forget that everything we do has to have a tactical purpose. Our students are depending on us to save there lives," he said.
Colonel Millander said he sees a place for everyone at Altus to assist in training.
"The ability to impact doesn't stop at the instructors, we all have chance to impact new aircrew members. I've seen the great impact of Altus [in numerous operations]. I've gotten to see your products at work everyday," he said.
"My promise to you is I'll lead from the front and work hard every day to maintain the high standards that you've become accustomed to. I'm going to challenge you to make it better," he said.
New vice commander reflects
On Wednesday, Colonel Dillon said he was pleased to be able to remain with the 97th AMW.
"I am honored to be selected for the vice commander position. The Dalton family is very happy that we can stay at Altus. It was a priviledge to serve as the 97th Operations Group commander," shared Colonel Dillon.
"Getting the mission done and taking care of people were essential as group commander. We can never forget that flying aircraft is an inherently dangerous business. I was especially pleased we flew thousands of sorties with a stellar safety record.
"The two key successes of the group have been safe accomplishment of the mission and transitioning from a Cold War mindset to a 21st Century mindset. This transition will enable us to successfully prosecute the Global War on Terrorism," he said.
People, ideas, technology
"Implementing our Combat Mobility Training - mission qualification ground training, wartime tactics training, and new flying training - is a great example of the mindset shift. Many times our Air Force focuses primarily on technology, but I think we have it wrong. I ascribe to the philosophy of Col. John Boyd: 'People, ideas, technology - in that order.'" said Colonel Dillon.
"With this philosophy in mind, our overarching principle to changing a Cold War mindset was, 'We're not going to use more funds or resources, but we're going to transform our training.'
"With this vision, the great folks in the Operations Group got it done. Operations, the Maintenance Division, Mission Support Group, and the Medical Group fused to execute Combat Mobility Training.
"You don't need to start by spending money; you need to start from the idea. That's how we're going to beat Al Qaeda, with ideas, not technology. This is a war of hearts and minds, not a war of attrition," he said.
"Colonel Everhart has said it many times, and it's true: no where else can you go in the Air Force where there is such a tight connection between the community and the base. I remember when my wife and I had been here 20 days, but we felt as intertwined with the community as though we'd lived here 20 years.
"I believe in emulating respected leaders. I see our commander-in-chief, President Bush, as on-time and to-the-point. I've adopted his leadership as my personal style as well. Work gets done outside of meetings, so I keep briefs brief," said Colonel Dillon.