LAJES FIELD, Azores — Lt. Gen. Timothy Ray, 3rd Air Force and 17th Expeditionary Air Force commander, presided over a special redesignation ceremony to mark the changeover of the 65th Air Base Wing to the 65th Air Base Group Aug. 14 on Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal. Brig. Gen. Jon Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, presided over Col. Richard Sheffe’s assumption of command of the newly redesignated 65th ABG.
Col. Martin Rothrock served as the 65th ABW commander since June 2014 and departs for Ramstein Air Base, where he will serve as the deputy director of logistics, engineering and force protection for Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa/A4.
“Know that today when we change this command, this is not a shift in the commitment of the United States to the Portuguese people,” Ray said. “Portugal is an incredible strategic partner, and we remain committed to that relationship both as a bilateral friend and ally and as part of the NATO alliance.”
The distinguished history of the 65th ABW has a proud heritage tracing back to World War II. Though the designation of the unit will change, all lineage and honors of the wing will continue under the 65th ABG.
“To the Airmen, you conduct an incredibly important mission, and I applaud your style and performance,” Ray said. “I look forward to continued news of your success and accomplishments as the 65th Air Base Group.”
During the ceremony, Ray presented Rothrock with the Legion of Merit for his outstanding leadership. Rothrock relinquished his command, and the 65th ABW guidon was furled. The unit was then redesignated as the 65th ABG under the 86th AW.
“I want to extend my greetings to the Airmen of the 65th Air Base Group,” Thomas said. “You are now part of the mighty 86th. You can now count on the other members of the mighty 86th to work with you in the success of your mission here at Lajes Field.”
After assuming command and receiving the 65th ABG guidon from Thomas, Sheffe, alongside 65th ABG command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Justin Walker, spoke to Lajes Airmen, calling it an honor to lead them.
“My promise to the 65th Air Base Group is simple — I will serve you all by leading justly and professionally as we open a new chapter in the story of Lajes Air Base,” Sheffe said.
Sheffe, a senior pilot with more than 2,600 flight hours in the C-5, arrived at Lajes Field from NATO Allied Joint Force Command, Brunssum, the Netherlands, where he was the chief of nuclear operations.
“When you research the history of this airfield and the nearly 70-year relationship with the U.S. forces and our Portuguese hosts, you can clearly see the strategic capability resonate on this installation,” Sheffe said. “This is a warfighting platform capable of contributing greatly to the defense of our allies and partners in the pursuit of peace.”
Sheffe is a 1994 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree. He is also a graduate of the Naval Command and Staff College and the NATO Defense College.
Thomas addressed Sheffe with advice for the incoming 65th ABG.
“Command is fundamentally a human endeavor, and we need to remember this at each step of the way,” Thomas said. “We need to remember the dignity of all individuals: Americans, Portuguese, military and civilians. That is how we conduct ourselves, and that is how command is successfully executed.”
Before closing, Rothrock reflected on the valued relationships he and his family built with Lajes Airmen.
“I could not ask for better professionals to work with than the Portuguese and U.S. Airmen at Lajes Field,” Rothrock said. “Although in the midst of change, there is a culture of excellence, loyalty and dedication shared both by Americans and the Portuguese.”
(The 65th Air Base Group is the American unit stationed at Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal. This U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa unit is the largest U.S. military organization in the Azores. The group plays a vital role in combat operations by enabling the expeditionary movement of warfighters, warplanes and global communications to combatant commanders and supporting joint, coalition and NATO operations as part of U.S. and Allied Air Expeditionary Forces.)