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Warhawks welcome new commander

Uniformed male hands unit flag to uniformed female.

Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh, 16th Air Force commander, gives the 55th Wing guidon to Col. Kristen Thompson, incoming commander, during the 55th WG change of command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, on June 22, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Charles J. Haymond)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --

The Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth, the largest wing in Air Combat Command and the second largest in the U.S. Air Force, welcomed a new commander during a ceremony at the Offutt Parade Field June 22, 2020.

Col. Kristen Thompson assumed command of the 55th Wing from Col. Gavin Marks during the time-honored military ceremony on the historic grounds of Fort Crook.

“The 55th Wing is gaining a world-class leader and commander today,” said Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh, 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) commander, who was the presiding official.

Thompson arrives at Offutt from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, where she served as the 380th Expeditionary Operations Group commander for the past year.

“I look forward to (Kristen’s) leadership as she takes command, and I can’t wait to watch the incredible Airmen of the 55th Wing as you continue to advance the future of warfighting within the Air Force and the Joint Force,” Haugh said.

The new Warhawk 01 earned her commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2001. She is a command pilot with more than 3,800 flying hours, including more than 700 combat hours, and is the first female to serve as commander of the wing.

“To the men and women of the Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth, I’m so excited for this new challenge,” Thompson said. “If you know me, you know I’m big on relationships and it’s how I lead and how I plan to do business.”

Over her 20-year career, Thompson served the Office of the Secretary of Defense as military assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. She also commanded the 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and spent time as a speechwriter in the Secretary of the Air Force’s Executive Action Group among other things.

“I am super-pumped to be part of a mission set that is undoubtedly the gem of the Air Force,” she said. “It is not lost on me that the 55th Wing is spread out across the world. The reach, professionalism, determination and discipline this wing possesses and crushes daily is remarkable.”

Marks departs Offutt for the Pentagon, where he will lead the Executive Action Group for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

“I remember saying two years and eight days ago that (taking command) would be the honor of my life, and I was right,” he said. “This experience has been surreal, exhilarating, exhausting, life fulfilling, and I cannot believe that this experience is coming to a close.

Haugh awarded Marks with the Legion of Merit during the ceremony for his leadership of the wing through COVID-19, a runway replacement and flood recovery efforts over the past two years.

“(Gavin) definitely left his mark on the 55th Wing,” Haugh said. “He artily harnessed the ingenuity of the Airmen in the wing to deliver exceptional outcomes to the nation.”

As commander of the Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth, Thompson is responsible for organizing, training and equipping six groups and 30 squadrons executing worldwide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; electronic attack; and nuclear command, control and communications support.