• Published
  • By Mr. Kenny Scarle
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

There are a lot of new faces at Altus Air Force Base. That’s because it’s Permanent Change of Station, or PCS season. It’s the time of year where military members and their families inevitably make their moves to new duty stations around the world. This can happen several times in a service member’s career, including many of the commanders at the mighty 97th.

Over the past three months, there have been nine changes of command at Altus, where units around the installation bid farewell to their previous commanders and welcome the new. Change of command ceremonies recognize the accomplishments of previous leaders and introduce the groups, squadrons and flights to their new commanders. This type of ceremony is a tradition which dates to antiquity. Even in ancient times, a ceremony was performed to reflect the transition of command from one person to another, such as a royal coronation.  

The primary purpose of a change of command ceremony is to allow subordinates to witness the formality of command change from one officer to another. Col. William Mickley, Commander, 97th Operations Group recently presided over one of these time-honored events and reflected on the importance and distinctive nature of the experience.

“Civilian corporations like Google, Amazon, Boeing, FedEx, Delta, United and American Airlines don’t mark the transition from one organizational leader to another in the same ceremonial manner we do,” said Mickley. “Though we share similar technical skills training with many of these companies, we differ greatly in the application of our tradecraft; in the methods and measures of success and in the implications and consequences of our decisions.  While we are always stewards of the tax-payers dollars, we don’t chase a profit margin or innovate for purpose of monetary gain.” 

The U. S. Air Force is made up of volunteers; people who choose to be part of a larger organization and give up many of the freedoms average citizens are afforded so they can help preserve those rights. Our Airmen, and commanders specifically do not serve the armed forces only for a paycheck. It ultimately comes down to being ready for the application of strength to achieve the national objectives of the country. This could include simply managing Airmen in day-to-day routines, but also could culminate into leading them in battle to defend the nation. Command is a substantial yet vital part of the responsibility military leaders assume when they take command of a unit, highlighted in the official ceremony.

“This is a requirement our counterparts in the business industry will hopefully never share. So it’s for this reason we target these select few occasions to remind ourselves of the unique significance of our profession…and the people chosen to lead in it,” said Mickley.

Personally, I’ve been through five wing change of commands during my tenure at Altus and each leader has brought their own specific points of view, personalities and leadership styles to the people of Altus Air Force Base. However, each time, the importance and dignity of the ceremony has gone a long way to establish them as leaders. It is in that moment the wing, group, squadron or flight knows what to expect from the leader and, in turn, what is expected from those who follow them. Therefore, no matter how often our military leaders are called to leave and report to a new duty station, it is always with a certain dignity and pride knowing they are not only serving the nation, but the all-volunteer force behind it.