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22nd FS welcomes new commander

March 31, 2008 (by SSgt. Tammie Moore) - Lt. Col. Douglas Nikolai assumed command of the 22nd FS from Lt. Col. Matt Chesnutt during a change of command ceremony on March 14, 2008. Colonel Chesnutt, moved on to become the deputy commander of the 52nd Operations Group.

Col. Thomas Lawhead, 52nd OG commander, hands the 22nd FS flag to Lt. Col. Matt Chesnutt, former 22nd FS commander, so it can be relinquished the new commander, Lt. Col. Douglas Nikolai. Colonel Chesnutt became the deputy commander of the 52nd OG. [USAF photo by SrA. Logan Tuttle]

Going to the 22nd Fighter Squadron is something that Colonel Nikolai said he is excited about. "As Vince Lombardi once said, 'If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you'll be fired with enthusiasm.' I am truly fired up with enthusiasm and look forward to the next two years as Stinger lead ... 'Stinger Pride - Feel the Sting,'" Colonel Nikolai said.

The transition from working as the base director of staff to serving as a flying squadron commander is one that will bring many new experiences according to Colonel Nikolai.

"I am looking forward to welcoming the superb Airmen of the 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit into the 22nd FS," he said. "The outstanding talent on both the operations and maintenance sides of the house will create an organization that will be simply amazing and take 'The Big 22' to new heights."

The history and past accomplishments of the 22nd FS are something that Colonel Nikolai said he takes pride in.

"The most rewarding part of being the commander of The Big 22 is realizing what an amazing combat-proven squadron I've inherited," Colonel Nikolai said. "The Stingers have picked up just where they left off since returning from downrange. The professionalism and pride of the Stingers is evident in all that we do."

Colonel Chesnutt said he feels very fulfilled from commanding the 22nd FS. He also said all of the Airmen assigned there have a lot to be proud of.

"I'd like all of the Stingers to take a moment and reflect on everything they have accomplished, from certifying the first NATO Response Force during the Cape Verde Deployment, to opening up Romania to [U.S. Air Force] F-16 training. He said the squadron also re-opened Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to rotational squadron deployments, to fielding the new HARM Targeting System and protected friendlies on 1,685 combat sorties in Iraq. After reflecting for a moment he said the squadron needs to, "get on with the business of molding the next group of combat heroes and professional warriors for the air and space expeditionary force rotation in May 2009."

During his time with the 22nd FS, Colonel Chesnutt made a lot of memories. He said the one that stands out most in his mind was greeting the last group of Stingers as they returned from Iraq, since he knew that they made themselves, their peers and their leaders proud of their accomplishments.

"Easily the most rewarding part of my time with the 22nd FS was leading the squadron downrange and watching them perform with such exacting precision and professionalism," he said.

Now that his time leading the 22nd FS is at a close, Colonel Chesnutt said, "I would like to wish my successor, Lt. Col. Doug "Stoli" Nikolai and his wife Katie all the best. The Stingers are in great hands and will certainly be even more red hot under his command."

Courtesy of 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

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