August 26, 2008 (by MSgt. Allison Day) - In a change of command ceremony officiated by Lt. Gen. Edward Rice Jr., commander of US Forces Japan and 5th AF, Col. David Stilwell became the new commander of the 35th FW in Hangar 949 at 9:30 a.m. Monday.
Lt. Gen. Edward Rice, Jr., commander of US Forces Japan and 5th AF, hands the wing guidon to Col. David Stilwell, 35th FW commander, during the wing change of command ceremony on August 25, 2008.
Colonel Stilwell replaced Col. Terrence O'Shaughnessy who served at Misawa for 19 months and was selected as the commander of the 613th Air and Space Operations Center, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.
"Anytime you get the chance to command it's a great feeling," said Colonel Stilwell. "There are rough spots, but the large majority of the time the commander gets to see the best of human nature when you watch your people take an idea and run with it."
Commanding at Misawa is better than stateside and other overseas bases, because there is a much tighter community here at Misawa, according to Colonel Stilwell.
"We tend to live on or very near the base, and most non-work activity revolves around the base," said Colonel Stilwell. "Therefore, we really get to know those we work with and deploy with, our families get to know each other and I think the whole experience is much more motivational all around. If you throw in the very positive nature of our Japanese hosts and the beauty of Northern Japan, for my money it doesn't get much better than this."
The commander has many goals for Misawa, but he spoke about immediate priorities including the need to continue with preparations for contingencies here in the Pacific theater while also supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
"In addition, we need to continue to build positive relations with our hosts here in Japan," said Colonel Stilwell. "The political and diplomatic consequences of bad behavior here at Misawa go much further than is readily apparent. Ideally, we could invest a week to educate everyone who comes to Japan, Korea, Italy
-- anywhere the culture is different than it is in the U.S. -- to minimize cross-cultural friction. Activities that would seem harmless back home can cause huge problems here in Japan."
Colonel Stilwell added that we need to be reminded from time to time that we are guests here.
His understanding of the culture here in Japan is one of the primary reasons General Rice chose him to lead the Wild Weasels.
"I must tell you, we didn't bring Colonel Stilwell here to fill anybody else's shoes; I'm quite confident that he brought his own combat boots with him and they fit him quite well," said General Rice. "He is the perfect officer to take command of this wing. His background - understanding Asia and .... more specifically Misawa - positions him well to take this wing to the next level of performance."
Colonel Stilwell is no stranger to Misawa, having been stationed here before. Only twice in his career has he gotten the assignment he'd hoped for, and both times it was Misawa, he said.
One of the things Colonel Stilwell is looking forward to with this assignment is eating Japanese food, which he enjoys.
"This is, by far, my favorite food," he said. "Last night, my family and I walked into Misawa City to a restaurant we last visited in 1996. It was just as good, better actually, than we remembered. We're going to take every opportunity to enjoy our time here because who else but the military gets these opportunities?"
Colonel Stilwell is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is a command pilot with more than 2,500 hours in the F-4E, RF-4C, T-41s and F-16 fighter aircraft. During his previous assignment here at Misawa, he served as a Pacific Air Forces Demonstration Pilot. He has also commanded the 77th Fighter squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. Additionally, he was an instructor of history at the U.S. Air Force Academy, as well as chief, Combat Applications Division at the Joint Intelligence Center Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
His major award and decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with one oak leave cluster, Aerial Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Air Force Commendation Medal.