55th Operations Group changes command

  • Published
  • By L. Cunningham
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

The 55th Operations Group held a change of command ceremony June 30, 2022, at Offutt Air Force Base.

Col. Derek Rachel assumed command from outgoing commander, Col. John Litecky, in a ceremony officiated by Col. Kristen Thompson, 55th Wing commander.

“Col. Rachel, the group you lead helps bring clarity and certainty to the unpredictable and the unforeseen. If we look at the competition continuum, the strategic value of the RC-135 is that it has range over this continuum because of the capabilities of this great aircraft, but mainly because of the leadership across the group that makes it a game changer,” said Thompson. “You will be awesome. Trust your instincts, enable your crews to learn and grow, challenge them to constantly think what’s next and be the catalyst for change.”

Rachel previously served in various assignments on the Joint Staff. Prior to taking command, he was chief of Global Integration Division at U.S. Strategic Command. He advocated for future intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and space capabilities in support of that mission.

“Because of the world class support the OG and the wing receive from all the members we have here from USSTRATCOM, the 557th Weather Wing, the 595th Command and Control Group and local community leaders, the 55th OG is truly blessed,” said Rachel.

Rachel began his military career as an F-16 crew chief in the 188th Fighter Wing, Fort Smith Arkansas, and commissioned in 1999 through the ROTC program. He is a master navigator with more than 3,000 flight hours and 837 combat hours.

“To the men and women of the OG, you are amazing, you are why I am here,” Rachel said. “Expect me to push you, support you, love you, and mentor you as we continue to be the very best operation group in the entire Air Force. Let’s get after it.”

The 55th OG operates five C-135 variants and executes global airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as treaty verification missions. It is the largest operations group in the Air Force with 11 squadrons and two detachments around the world. Litecky faced a variety of challenges during his tour at Offutt.

“Three years ago, I found out I was getting this job, the flood had just happened, then COVID happened, and I found out the runway was going to be closed. I thought that’s going to be challenging. The group has not slowed down and has been absolutely spectacular, so I thank you for that,” said Litecky. “I appreciate all of you so much. It’s been an absolute honor being the 55th OG commander and I couldn’t think of a better way to close out my career.” 

Litecky will retire on January 1, 2023.

“Col. Litecky, you are the best deal our nation gets. I can never repay you in kind for what you have done. On behalf of this grateful nation, the state of Nebraska and the Air Force, thank you for everything you have done. It has been an honor to lead our terrific Airmen alongside you,” said Thompson. “We are forever indebted to your wonderful leadership.”