521 AMOW welcomes new commander

by TSgt Jocelyn A. Ford
86 Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Maj. Gen. Christopher J. Bence, commander of the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, passes the guidon and command of the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing to Col. Bradley L. Spears in a ceremony June 28. The 521 AMOW provides forward-deployed command and control, aerial port, and aircraft maintenance support to DoD organic and contracted commercial aircraft executing airlift and air refueling missions throughout the U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa area of responsibility. — Photo by Airman 1st Class Ariel Leighty

Col. Bradley Spears assumed command of the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing during a change of command ceremony June 28. Maj. Gen. Christopher Bence, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center commander, presided over the ceremony in which Col. Thomas M. Cooper relinquished command of the 521 AMOW to Col. Spears.

“It is a unique opportunity to fly-up in the same organization.” Spears, who previously served as the wing’s vice commander, said in an interview prior to the change of command ceremony. “Moving from Vice Commander to Commander affords the opportunity to provide some stability to the Wing.”

Spears now leads the 521 AMOW whose mission is to provide forward-deployed command and control, aerial port, and aircraft maintenance support to DoD organic and contracted commercial aircraft executing airlift and air refueling missions throughout the USAFE-AFAFRICA area of responsibility.


“Leadership, the act of leading, is underwritten by trust.” Spears said in his interview. “That trust is built by leaders who live by our core values, are highly competent and striving to be better every day, and have the ability to connect with peers, subordinates, and supervisors. Our Wing is successful when all 2,100 Airmen are leaders.”

Before officially assuming command of the 521 AMOW, Spears was presented the Legion of Merit, the Air Force’s sixth-highest decoration, for exceptional meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements as the wing’s vice commander.

Col. Thomas M. Cooper retires from the Air Force after more than 29 years of service. During his tenure as commander, the 521 AMOW supported 104,854 strategic airlift missions, moving more than one million passengers, and nearly 5,000 aeromedical evacuation patients and 360,000 tons of cargo in support of operations and exercises.

Cooper was presented with the Legion of Merit during his retirement ceremony following the change of command.

Headquartered at Ramstein Air Force Base, the 521 AMOW reports to the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center and Air Mobility Command. The wing is comprised of more than 2,100 U.S. military, civilian, and local national personnel operating from 21 locations across six time zones. The wing includes two groups, 10 squadrons, two detachments and four operating locations.