55th Wing welcomes new Warhawk 01

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  • By 55th Wing Public Affairs

The 55th Wing officially welcomed its new leader during a change of command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base June 22, 2023.

Col. Mark Howard accepted the guidon from Col. Kristen Thompson during the tradition-filled ceremony at the Bennie L. Davis Maintenance Facility.

“When selecting a wing commander, I look for leaders who have demonstrated the ability to build teams, communicate their vision and continually seek a connection with the Airmen who are entrusted to their command and continually seek greater understanding and deeper insight on the mission they are charged to lead,” said Lt. Gen. Kevin B. Kennedy, 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) commander, who served as presiding official. “Col. Howard is that Airman.”

The new Warhawk 01 has spent much of his career serving across the Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth. He is a master RC-135V/W Rivet Joint combat systems officer with more than 2,400 flying hours, including 940 combat and 140 combat support hours.

“I am incredibly honored and humbled to serve this elite group of warfighters,” Howard said.

He essentially moves just a few feet down a short hallway from one office to another as he has served as the wing’s vice commander since July 2021.

“Alright, Warhawks,” Howard said, addressing the unit for the first time as commander. “Your key characteristic is that you never give up on each other. Our asymmetric advantage is our warfighting spirit, especially when it comes to competition.

“Our new systems require new tactics, techniques and procedures and we are excited and more than ready for that challenge,” he continued. “Our courage and resolve will be tested, but we are in this together and we have what it takes.”

Kennedy awarded Thompson the Legion of Merit during the ceremony. She led the wing through the end of the COVID pandemic, a runway replacement project and ongoing flood recovery while also establishing an A-Staff and Lead Wing operations simultaneously.

“Leading a wing of the scale, scope and complexity of the 55th is no small task,” Kennedy said. “Not only does she lead the Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth, she also ensures the welfare and discipline of the entire Offutt installation. Thanks to your vision and dedication, you empowered your team and elevated them to unprecedented achievements.”

Thompson departs the wing for New York where she will serve as a military fellow to the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Air Force chief of staff nominated Thompson for the position and an internal selection panel, composed of former secretary of defense, former deputy secretary of defense and retired general officers, selected her.

“The sun never sets on this incredible fighting force,” she said. “We foster a culture here that captures our Airmen and nation’s imagination, our civilian leadership’s trust, and our service’s brilliance.

“Commanding this wing has been the honor of a lifetime and I’m forever grateful,” Thompson concluded.

As the wing transitions to its new leader, Kennedy said our nation is approaching a decisive decade that will set the course of our nation’s security for the next century and the Warhawks of the 55th Wing will play a key role.

“You are in a unique position,” he said. “You are pursuing and exposing adversaries each and every day. You are shaping the future of information warfare through excellence in ISR and EW. Your knowledge and expertise will remain in high demand, and I am incredibly proud of your accomplishments under Col. Thompson and look forward to seeing what you will achieve with Col. Howard in the seat.”


VIDEO | 44:42 | 55th Wing Change of Command Ceremony