RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Col. Jeffrey Marker stepped into a unique job Tuesday when he took command of the 603rd Air and Space Operations Center (AOC), the only Air Force unit of its kind that supports two combatant commands, for Europe and Africa.
Marker, an electronic warfare officer and master navigator who’s been lauded for his leadership, took command from Col. Peter Davey in a ceremony presided over by Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, the 3rd Air Force commander.
Franklin said the 603rd AOC has “a lot of growth potential,” and “a lot of capabilities,” and said Marker was the right person to lead the busy unit into the future.
The 603rd AOC, nicknamed the “Wolfhounds,” oversees air operations for U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command, a dual mission it’s had since October, when the air operations center for the now-inactivated 17th Air Force was folded into the 603rd as part of an Air Force-wide reorganization effort to save money.
During Davey’s command, the Ramstein-based unit moved into a new $84 million facilitythat served as an operations command-and-control hub during Operation Odyssey Dawn, the U.S.-led air campaign in Libya.
The unit can also be called on to assist with humanitarian relief missions, as it was last fall when it planned and directed aid flights after an earthquake in Turkey as part of a cooperative response effort, according to the Air Force.
Another key mission of the 603rd is supporting President Barack Obama’s phased, adaptive approach for ballistic missile defense in Europe. During a Legion of Merit award presentation for him at Tuesday’s ceremony, Davey was cited as being “instrumental in developing and implementing” an operational ballistic missile defense design for EUCOM. Davey’s next assignment is also at Ramstein, as NATO’s Allied Air Command director of staff.
Marker, who previously was director of operations for U.S. Air Forces Central Command, leads about 500 airmen, soldiers, sailors and civilians at the 603rd.