FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA

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Change of command a time-honored tradition

By August 6, 2011

A time-honored military tradition played out Friday at Travis Air Force Base as command of the base passed from one man to another.

Col. Dwight Sones accepted the flag of the 60th Air Mobility Wing from Lt. Gen. Robert Allardice, commander of the 18th Air Force at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., who received the flag from outgoing base commander Col. James Vechery during a formal change-of-command ceremony at the base.

Allardice presided over the ceremony and praised both colonels as “two of the finest leaders in the Air Force today.”

A military change-of-command ceremony is more than just ceremony. It signifies in a very public way orders that are transmitted on paper or, as may be more common in the modern age, electronically. Similar ceremonies take place as command of any U.S. military unit changes from one leader to another, all the way up to the swearing-in ceremony for a new commander in chief.

Sones brings an impressive background to his new post at Travis. He served most recently as commander of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing based at Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan, the top air mobility hub for supporting American and coalition operations in Afghanistan.

Vechery takes his experience here at Travis to his new assignment at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., where he will serve as Deputy Director of Operations at Air Mobility Command.

Sones now commands a military facility that has the distinction of being Solano County’s largest employer. The economic impact of the base was recently pegged at $1.5 billion in annual payroll, operating costs and the value of the jobs there. Sandy Person, executive director of the Solano Economic Development Corp., said in a recent column in the Daily Republic that that figure, combined with $13.5 billion in assets and expenditures and $150 million in construction projects either planned or under way, “tell the story about Travis Air Force Base and just what it means to our communities.”

Person’s comments were echoed in a column published Saturday in the Daily Republic and penned by Bud Ross, a retired Air Force colonel and chairman of the Travis Community Consortium. Ross made reference to potential military budget cuts, but opined that Travis “is in a seemingly good position to accommodate additional missions and people” should the Air Force experience another round of base closings. But, Ross, cautioned, community vigilance is needed to help ensure that Travis, Solano County’s base, continues to grow and thrive.

It is in the best interests of all Solano County businesses and residents to support Travis Air Force Base and to do what is necessary to ensure the success of the base. That’s our job as a community. It’s Sones’ job to lead his airmen to further any military mission that’s set before them, and it’s Vechery’s job to do the same now at Scott.

We wish Col. Vechery well in his new assignment and are confident he will continue to succeed. And we welcome Col. Sones to Solano County, where a call of “Team Travis” in many segments of the community prompts an immediate response of “Air Power!”

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