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Colonel Gaedecke takes reins of ‘America’s Wing’

Col. David Gaedecke speaks to members of the Tinker community after assuming command of the 552nd Air Control Wing July 1.  As commander, Col. Gaedecke is responsible for the fleet of E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft and Control and Reporting Centers and leads more than 4,000 men and women at three bases. (Air Force photo by Kelly White/Released)

Col. David Gaedecke speaks to members of the Tinker community after assuming command of the 552nd Air Control Wing July 1. As commander, Col. Gaedecke is responsible for the fleet of E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft and Control and Reporting Centers and leads more than 4,000 men and women at three bases. (Air Force photo by Kelly White/Released)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- More than 1,000 Airman, civilian leaders and community partners gathered in a patriotically decked-out Hangar 230 July 1 to watch Col. David M. Gaedecke take command of "America's Wing" at Tinker Air Force Base and say goodbye to former Commander Col. Jay R. Bickley.

Presiding officer Lt. Gen. Mark Nowland, commander of 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern, said the 552nd Air Control Wing is receiving "another incredible leader" in Colonel Gaedecke.

"This wing represents power for America and this wing represents defending America from the threats that are out there," the general said. "I know you've got the right leader to make it happen while we take care of you."

The ceremony took place before a massive flag hanging behind the presentation stage. The wing's newest and most advanced E-3G Airborne Warning and Control System plane was parked outside. Members of the wing's Operations, Maintenance and Air Control groups lined up in formation in front of the commanders.

Colonel Gaedecke told the audience it is an unprecedented time for the approximately 4,500 wing members in the airborne command-and-control and "battle management business."

"The wing has performed magnificently and without a doubt demonstrated that you can take care of the mission," said Colonel Gaedecke, the wing's 38th commander. "While working in Air Combat Command, I wore the command patch on my shoulder which read, 'people first, mission always.' This statement perfectly illustrates my intentions as your commander.

"Because you've shown your dedication to the mission always, I will put you and your families first, so you can continue to concentrate on the mission of our wing, the United States Air Force and our great nation as we continue to fight our enemies abroad."

Colonel Gaedecke was most recently the deputy director of operations at Headquarters Air Combat Command. The Gaedecke family includes his wife, Aimee, and four children.

The senior air battle manager has logged over 2,000 flying hours, including more than 500 combat hours, in E-3 AWACS and E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft. The colonel's major decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal.

General Nowland praised Colonel Bickley for two years of achievements as the 552nd commander, for which he received the Legion of Merit during the ceremony.

"I think so highly of Jay that your loss is going to be my gain, because he's coming up to be my vice commander," the general said. The colonel will serve at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

The award citation credited Colonel Bickley for overseeing the $2.9 billion Block 40/45 technological upgrade of AWACS planes, leading to initial operating capability last summer. Among other achievements, the colonel's "exceptionally meritorious conduct" brought significant improvements to the Air Force's command and control capabilities, the citation said.

Colonel Bickley recalled the remarks he delivered when he assumed command of the 552nd in June 2013.

"On that day, I talked about it being a very challenging time for our Air Force and our wing, but that I strongly believed that we as a service and a wing would find opportunity in adversity and emerge stronger and more lethal, and it has been my honor to watch the 552nd Air Control Wing do just that," he said.