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Island welcomes newest iguana

CURACAO, Netherlands Antilles -- The scene inside the hangar of the 429th Expeditionary Operations Squadron, outfitted with an oversized American flag, fire engines flanking each side of the stage and a gleaming E-3 AWACS, looked more like an airshow than a remote island expeditionary unit's base. Local dignitaries, military leaders, diplomats and deployed personnel from various bases and services gathered June 18 in the 429 EOS hangar for a ceremony honoring the 429 EOS Commander, Lt. Col. Otto D. Habedank's accomplishments and welcoming the unit's new commander, Lt. Col. Michael J. Price. 

After one year as the commander of the 429 EOS, Colonel Habedank bid an emotional farewell to the squadron he so enthusiastically led. During that time, his squadron and the deployed units it hosted captured or interrupted over 146,470 kilograms of illegal narcotics, worth more than 5.3 billion dollars. 

Col. Douglas A. Galipeau, commander, 474th Air Expeditionary Group, characterized these accomplishments as "nothing short of spectacular." 

The island of Curacao is only 171 square miles and is home to only 132,000 people, but the tactical implications of its location make it "a key base in counter-drug efforts," explained Colonel Price. "It's ideally located for interdiction, and we rely heavily on our international partners." 

The deployed units at Curacao have become an integral part of the daily functions of the 429 EOS. Aviators from the HC-130, P-3 and E-3, as well as the deployed KC-135 unit were in attendance, and even took an active role in the ceremony. Deployed air weapons officers from the 964th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, 1st Lt. Robert Thomson and 1st Lt. Matthew Kline sang the Star Spangled Banner, the E-3 crew hosted a static tour of their aircraft, and deployed members stood in formation as a representation of the composite nature of the unit. 

Colonel Price is optimistic about assuming his new role as the commander of the 429 EOS. He commented, "You go through your whole career, and the influence you have on any one part of the Air Force is fairly limited, so I look forward to this chance to have an impact." 

His optimism was shared by the deployed personnel at the ceremony. "I expect the transition will be seamless," said Lt. Col. Solomon Boxx, commander, 964 EAACS. "The Air Force changes commanders as a way of bringing in a fresh perspective, and we welcome it."