Amid displays of the 944th Fighter Wing’s full airpower arsenal, its commander, Col. Jim Greenwald, relinquished command of the unit to Col. Mark Van Brunt, incoming commander, during a change of command ceremony June 6 at Luke Air Force Base.
Friends, family, community members, members of the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, and men and women of the 944th and 56th Fighter Wings attended the ceremony presided over by Maj. Gen. Bryan Radliff, 10th Air Force commander.
“You can’t put this view this morning in the script — the aircraft, these men and women in formation, and the ceremonious setting,” said Radliff. “Letting go of the guidon and relinquishing command is one of the most difficult changes for a commander to make because the job is never finished.”
Greenwald, a native of Torrington, Wyoming, took command of the 944th FW in May 2019.
During the ceremony he was commended on his efforts of directing more than 2,000 personnel, performing four separate flying missions in five different locations with services provided for more than 75,000 active duty, reserve, civilian, and retired personnel in the local servicing area surrounding Luke Air Force Base.
It was also highlighted that when faced with the unprecedented Coronavirus 2019 pandemic he ensured the rapid deployment of 13 wing medical personnel in less than 48 hours to New York City during the height of the crisis in that area.
For his service and accomplishments as the commander, Greenwald was presented the Legion of Merit from Radliff.
“This is a day I have not been looking forward to,” said Greenwald, who is retiring after 32 years of service. “Amidst COVID, social unrest, a contentious election season, and our unrelenting continued mission — you have all performed exceptionally and it is so hard to walk away from all of you.”
In receiving his award and speaking to his troops for a final time, Greenwald focused on the gratitude he felt for all in attendance, specifically recognizing his wife, two sons, and his mother, while also quoting is late father.
“Here we are 32 years later and I think about what is next,” said a grinning Greenwald. “Dad would always say, ‘if that Air Force thing doesn’t work out, you can always come back to the farm.’”
Radliff thanked Greenwald for his service and expressed his gratitude for giving 32 years of his life to the Air Force.
“Thank you for your servant leadership,” he said.
Greenwald went on to thank community partners, friends, peers and staff members.
“This has been, personally and professionally, the most fulfilling role in all of my years of service,” said Greenwald. “Thank each and every one of you, forge and fight.”
Radliff welcomed incoming commander Van Brunt and told him this is the best job he will ever have.
“Your selection is not only based on your past success, but more so off of faith in your future success,” Radliff told Van Brunt.
Van Brunt humbly explained that he felt he was a little in denial with his new role upon seeing the enormity and vast responsibilities of the 944th FW, the Air Force Reserve Command’s most diverse fighter wing.
“This wing is firing on all cylinders and I am honored to be a part of it,” he said. “I am looking forward to working alongside all of you.”
Editor’s note: Staff Sgt. Tyler J. Bolken is with the 944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs office at Luke Air Force Base.