July 4, 2009 (by SSgt. Dilia Ayala) - Airmen from the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing welcomed a new commander during a change-of-command ceremony in a hazy sandstorm on July 4.
Brig. Gen. Craig Franklin assumes command of the 332nd AEW from Lt. Gen. Gary North, 9th AF and USAF Central commander, during a change of command ceremony on July 4th, 2009 at Balad AB. [USAF photo by SrA. Elizabeth Rissmiller]
Brig. Gen. Craig Franklin took command of the 332nd AEW from Brig. Gen. Brian Bishop, who departs JBB to become deputy director, politico-military affairs (Western Hemisphere), Joint Staff, at the Pentagon.
"Today is a very humbling day for me, for it was one year ago that I had the privilege to assume command," General Bishop said as he addressed the Airmen of the 332nd AEW for the last time as commander. "Every day since, you continued to amaze me with your abilities to not just meet the challenges that our nation places upon you, but exceed all expectations as you met those challenges head on.
"I am humbled by your tenacity, by your dedication, by your professionalism under pressure and by your heart by wanting to accomplish the mission to the best of your abilities," continued General Bishop. "I can only say, 'thank you.'"
Lt. Gen. Gary North, 9th Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Central commander, presided over the ceremony where he lauded General Bishop for his exceptional leadership of the more than 8,000 Airmen assigned to the wing and everything they've accomplished in the last year under his command.
"It is my honor and a privilege and a pleasure to say, 'mission accomplished,' to Brig. Gen. Bishop," said General North. ""You've (General Bishop) demonstrated superb leadership by commanding this combat unit in so many different locations across Iraq. The Airmen of the 332nd are clearly extraordinary as are the joint warriors of Joint Base Balad.
"Your leadership has set the standard. The results clearly are outstanding," the general continued. "You (General Bishop) may pass the flag today with the satisfaction of knowing the wing and Joint Base Balad have performed exceptionally well in its mission under your leadership."
In addition, General North expressed his confidence in General Franklin, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and former executive assistant to the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his ability to lead and continue the legacy of excellence perpetuated by today's 21st-century Tuskegee Airmen. General Franklin comes to the wing from Aviano Air Base, Italy
, where he commanded the 31st Fighter Wing.
"General Franklin is a superior leader," General North said. "The mission is simple: uphold and advance the tradition of excellence here at Balad. You (General Franklin) will write the next chapter in the story of how Airmen and our joint warriors integrate in the fight to drive to establish stability, security and posterity with our partner nations throughout not only Iraq, but partner nations throughout the AOR (U.S. Central Command area of responsibility)."
After assuming command, General Franklin addressed the Airmen of the 332nd AEW.
"I'm very proud to take the lead of our 332nd AEW," General Franklin said. "Our mission remains steady ... and that is to support our fellow Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen on the ground with tactical airpower, surveillance, airlift and with our role as base operations and support integrator as the senior airfield authority."
Furthermore, the new commander, who is from Morton Grove, Ill., shared his goal for the upcoming year with those in attendance.
"Our ultimate joint and national objective is to assist the people and government of Iraq in the development and security of their great nation; as you well know, we are making great progress," General Franklin continued. "This is an historic task and I know you are each proud to be part of this endeavor."
The heritage of the 332nd AEW is tied to the famous 332nd Fighter Group led by the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. It is the most forward-deployed combat wing in Iraq.
With a rally cry of "The Legend Continues," the 332nd AEW employs the spectrum of airpower capability throughout the Iraqi theater of operations in support of ground forces and Iraqi capacity-building, including: strike, airlift/airdrop, combat search and rescue, aeromedical evacuation, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Overall, the wing operates F-16, C-130, MQ-1B, and MC-12 aircraft, as well as HH-60 helicopters.
The 332nd AEW is based jointly with the U.S. Army's 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), which is responsible for operation of the largest Army logistics center in Iraq.
"I thank each of you and your families for what you are doing, for the sacrifice so that we and others may live under freedom's banner," General Franklin concluded. "I am very proud to work with you and for you as we build upon the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen and the 332nd AEW."