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55th MDG welcomes new commander

A photo to go with a 55 MDG change of command story.

Col. Christopher Backus receives the 55th Medical Group guidon from Col. Kristen D. Thompson, 55th Wing commander, during a change of command ceremony June 8 at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Backus became the newest commander of the 55 MDG. (U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --

The mighty medics of the 55th Medical Group welcomed a new commander during a change of command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, on July 8.

In time-honored military tradition, Col. Christopher Backus accepted the group guidon and became the newest commander of the 55th MDG.

Col. Kristen D. Thompson, 55th Wing commander, presided over the ceremony and spoke to the achievements of the group under the command of Col. Julie Ostrand, who will retire with 29 years of service.

“Not only did you run the largest and busiest medical group in the Air Force, you led it during an unprecedented time frame when we were challenged to our max," Thompson said. “And what I like about Julie Ostrand's brand of leadership is that you led as a human, which I am big on. You genuinely care more than anyone, all while setting a standard that makes everyone want to work for and with you.”

Some of the accomplishments during Ostrand’s command included clearing 4,400 Airmen for deployments, the development of a partnership with community health organizations to provide facilities for the treatment of beneficiaries, and the medical care of more than 180,000 patients. The medical group also won the 2019 Air Force Best Ambulatory Clinic Patient Safety Program award.

Backus comes to Offutt from Al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar, where he served as the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group commander. Backus is a senior pilot with more than 3,750 flight hours and 350 combat hours as well as a senior flight surgeon.

Thompson welcomed him to the Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth and noted his exceptional experience.

“You’re the absolute right person for this group,” Thompson said. “Your expertise, background, experience and leadership are exactly what we need as we continue to fight our way out of COVID and continue to take care of our Airmen and the community.”

Backus said he is excited for the opportunity to lead a group of more than 600 Airmen, civilians and contractors.

“This is about you; the people, the mission and being very clear who’s responsible to support you,” Backus said. “I’m not at the top of the pyramid, I’m at the bottom. I’m here to demolish obstacles, to help you along with my experience, and to be part of the team.”

The 55th MDG is home to the Ehrling Bergquist Clinic and provides medical care to more than 49,000 patients throughout the area.