SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – Fresh off his last assignment at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Col. Peter M. Bilodeau accepted his first job as wing commander Friday at a base he once flew from as a young captain.
Without missing a beat, Bilodeau rallied the hundreds of uniformed airmen attending the 52nd Fighter Wing’s assumption-of-command ceremony with a familiar call. “Sabers,” he said, referring to the wing’s nickname. “Seek, attack, destroy” — the motto of the only U.S. fighter wing in Germany — rang out loud and clear.
Passing the wing’s colors to Bilodeau was Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, the commander of 3rd Air Force, who stood in Bilodeau’s shoes about eight years ago, when he became the wing’s commander.
“Spangdahlem is a big deal,” Roberson said to Bilodeau. “The sabers before you are awesome.”
Using Bilodeau’s call sign, Roberson said, “So Cujo, make this your own wing. Lead these airmen, who are the greatest asset that our Air Force has to offer.”
Bilodeau follows the wing’s previous commander, Col. David Julazadeh, who departed early for a job at the Pentagon in May, after two years at the helm.
A decorated combat pilot, Bilodeau, a Distinguished Flying Cross recipient, flew F-16s at Spangdahlem for nearly three years in the late 1990s, when he served as an instructor pilot and assistant chief of weapons for the 23rd Fighter Squadron.
“If you were looking for passive leadership, then you chose the wrong person,” Bilodeau told airmen, who sat tightly packed on bleachers inside an aircraft hangar
“The best advice I can give you right now,” he said, “is if you want to understand my leadership style, it would be ‘if it’s based on increasing combat capability, then you’re doing the right thing and keep doing it.’ If not, let’s talk and let’s work on trying to get better while taking care of our airmen and families.”
Recent events in eastern Europe have meant busy times for the wing, which recently returned 18 of its fighter aircraft from Poland. The wing “has been forward deployed in Poland to defend against what Russia has been doing in Ukraine and the Crimea and to make our forward presence known and felt,” Roberson said.
Multiple deployments in support of operations to Iraq and Afghanistan, and now to places closer to home in Europe, have built up the wing’s combat experience over the past 10 years, Bilodeau said. “The goal is to continue and keep growing,” he said.