U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach (left), Seventh Air Force commander, presents the guidon to the 51st Fighter Wing’s newest commander, Col. John Gonzales (right), during a change of command ceremony, June 18, 2019, at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Greg Nash)
U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach (left), Seventh Air Force commander, presents the guidon to the 51st Fighter Wing’s newest commander, Col. John Gonzales (right), during a change of command ceremony, June 18, 2019, at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Greg Nash)

New commander takes rein of 51st Fighter Wing

by Staff Sgt. Greg Nash
Osan Air Base

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The 51st Fighter Wing Mustangs welcomed their new commander, U.S. Air Force Col. John Gonzales, and bid farewell to Col. William Betts during a change of command ceremony here, June 18.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, Seventh Air Force commander, presided over the ceremony, honored to see the beginning of a new era in the 51 FW’s distinguished history.

“The Mustangs have continued and expanded the 51st [Fighter Wing’s] tradition of excellence,” said Wilsbach. “During a time of both historic provocations and potential for diplomatic success, this wing consistently provided peerless airpower and unparalleled support to the Republic of Korea under the exceptional leadership of Colonel Betts.”

For Wilsbach, Betts’ leadership capabilities amid challenges on the peninsula bolstered his confidence in the 51st FW’s ability to remain steady and ready.

According to Betts, this level of responsibility and the opportunity to lead this mission was the most rewarding assignment of his career.

“It has been the greatest honor of [my] career to lead the charge here for the last two years,” said Betts. “Osan, I will keep a watchful eye on you as you maintain the charge and I look forward to future visits to this country that I love, and will continue to pray for peace. Surely, being a Mustang will follow me throughout all the days of my life.”

Although carrying on Mustang tradition for Gonzales won’t be uncharted territory as a prior 25th Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II pilot, he’s excited to embrace his new role.

“I am so honored to have the privilege of leading the finest wing in the Air Force,” said Gonzales. “I’m honored to be your commander and look forward to working with you to build upon the Mustang legacy of valor and excellence. I have no doubt that together we will excel, defend the base, execute combat operations and sustain the force.”

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