ASAB Holds Change of Command with 779th EAS Redesignation

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Michael S. Murphy
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

ALI AL SALEM AIR BASE, Kuwait -- The 779th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron was redesignated as the 61st EAS during a change of command ceremony at the Ali Al Salem Base Theater Tuesday, Nov, 2.

U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Barnes, the 407th Air Expeditionary Group commander presided over the ceremony and delivered the initial remarks. Both Col. Clinton Wilson, the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing commander and Chief Master Sgt. Joshua Buck, 386th AEW command chief were in attendance as well as joint coalition forces to show their support.

“Today’s ceremony is not your average change of command,” Barnes said. “Our ceremony today has a new twist. With this change of command, we also change the squadron charged with those orders and mission.”

Barnes went on to share the rich history of the 779th EAS, where it started as a bombardment squadron in World War II flying B-24 Liberators. These pilots went on to perform airlift operations during the Vietnam and Korean conflicts from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Barnes included how the mission of the 779th EAS has evolved over the years to be led by a variety of USAF Air National Guard and Reserve units.

“Arkansas, Rhode Island, Texas, Illinois, the Carolinas, Colorado and Delaware to name a few,” said Barnes. “Brought together here at Ali Al Salem Air Base, the perfect example of a total force squadron. To the men and women of the 779th, thank you, and congratulations on a successful tour.”

The outgoing commander of the 779th EAS, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Cretz spoke about his time in command at ASAB after receiving the Meritorious Service Medal third oak leaf cluster.

“Take care of the people, and they’ll take care of the mission,” Cretz said. “Our folks have taken care of the mission. Our crews found themselves on the front lines as American ambassadors, be it with Air Traffic Controllers, customs officials, members of foreign militaries, or Afghan evacuees fleeing the Taliban. Our men and women represent the best that America has to offer. I had the pleasure to serve in this position. Thank you.”

The redesignation signifies the change of C-130 models from the C-130H Hercules to the upgraded C-130J Super Hercules. The C-130J model is able to transport larger payloads, travel faster, and require a smaller air crew to operate within the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility.

Barnes paid his goodbyes to Cretz with a warm thanks for his leadership and ability to be flexible while meeting and exceeding the missions set before him. Barnes then welcomed the incoming commander of the 61st EAS, USAF Lt. Col. Nicholas “Rojo” Redenius.

“Rojo is a Herc pilot through and through,” Barnes said. “Weapons officer, evaluator- commander. Rojo has a coach’s eye and a questioning attitude that knows we can always get better. It is clear that he has the tactical skills and strategic vision to lead this squadron. So, to the men and women of the 61st EAS, the Desert Hornets, welcome to the 407th and 386th family.”

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Nicholas Redenius introduced himself to the men and women of the 61st EAS, the newly designated squadron.

“The 61st lineage dates back to its activation as the 61st Troop Carrier Squadron on Oct. 26, 1942,” Redenius explained. “From that day forward, the 61st has participated in every major U.S. military operation from Normandy beach during D-Day to critical air land and airdrop resupply missions in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and operation Just Cause in Panama. The weight of this historical tradition is now our charge and story to write. The missions we fly will forever be recorded and credited to the Desert Hornets and squadron we have to call home. I thank you for what you’ll soon accomplish and I know that you’re ready to meet any challenge thrown your way.”

The 779th EAS was comprised of aircrew and C-130H models deployed from the 166th Airlift Wing, Delaware Air National Guard and the 908th Airlift Wing, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. The newly rotated C-130J crew members are deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.