ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Col. Blaine Baker took command of the 97th Air Mobility Wing during a change of command ceremony July 1, 2021, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, 19th Air Force commander, presided over the ceremony in which he passed leadership responsibilities of the 97th AMW to Baker from outgoing commander Col. Matthew Leard.
During his comments, Wills commended Leard for his leadership and his many accomplishments. He then praised the members of “Mobility’s Hometown” that rallied around Leard to make the 97th AMW a success.
“What a difference the Mighty 97th makes…the mission's on track, the community is stronger than ever, and your efforts made a difference,” he said. “Whether you're an active duty member or a civilian, a contract partner, a neighbor or a friend, your efforts made a difference and we appreciate you.”
While Wills acknowledged that it was solemn to say goodbye to the Leard family, he emphasized that Baker is the perfect choice to “pick up the baton and run faster,” namely furthering the 97th AMW’s mission to perform “premier aircrew training by elite Airmen in the Air Force’s community of choice.”
“Blaine is perfect, perfect to be here at this time. His background is phenomenal. He knows air mobility operations. He understands firsthand the skills our new aircrew need to be successful in today's fight,” he said. “More importantly, he's known across the map and across our Air Force as a servant leader, a man of true humility, a fantastic follower and an even better leader. There's no doubt in my mind that Colonel Blaine Baker and his family are exactly the right people at the right time to take care of this precious and spectacular wing.”
Leard, when reflecting on his time as commander, expressed gratification toward the accomplishments of 97th AMW Airmen and the Altus community.
“I'm proud. I'm proud of everything this team has done. You've met every challenge. You've risen to it and I couldn't be more proud of the team. I hope that this team also is very proud of the work that they perform each and every day,” he said. “This is an amazing community, an amazing team doing this. So, when somebody asks you where you're from, be proud of the fact that you're in the Mighty 97th and Altus, Oklahoma. We do it better than anybody else.”
After accepting command, Baker said he is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the legacy of the “Mighty 97th.”
“It is so deeply humbling to be joining this wing - a wing with a long and distinguished history that for more than 70 years has provided for America's defense and shaped the very character of our mobility Air Force,” he said. “Standing here, one can literally feel the presence of and the responsibility to the Airmen of the Mighty 97th, both present and past, to which our history directly connects.”
Regarding the future, Baker said he looks forward to working alongside the Airmen of AAFB to continue providing rapid mobility and global defense through the C-17 Globemaster, KC-135 Stratotanker, and KC-46 Pegasus weapon systems.
“As awesome and magnificent as these aircraft are, we must keep in mind that they go nowhere and do nothing without every single member of this team and this incredible community that we call Mobility's Hometown. Most importantly, we need to remember that all of this exists for one key purpose, and that is to defend our great nation,” he said. “We train exceptional mobility Airmen to deliver air power for America and, make no mistake, Altus Air Force Base will continue to deliver…by forging the world's most inspired, proficient and adaptive Airmen mobility warriors - a force that is ready to fly, to fight and to win anytime, anywhere. With the fighting spirit of our mobility warriors and the strength of our families, our country should have every confidence that Altus Air Force Base will continue to do its part to defend this great nation.”
The event was broadcasted and can be replayed on the 97th Air Mobility Wing Facebook page at www.facebook.com/97AMW.