Air Force reservists bid farewell to the man who helped rescue the 911th Airlift Wing from closure two years ago and welcomed aboard a new commander on Sunday.
During a ceremony at the base in Moon, Air Force officials credited Col. Craig Peters with improving overall operations while fighting to keep the base open as federal spending cuts threatened it.
The station overcame significant “headwinds” during that time, Peters said, though he cautioned reservists not to become complacent.
“Change is here and you've got to embrace change,” he told reservists during a nearly hour-long ceremony.
Peters is leaving the 911th after a little more than two years to take up a new position as joint staff in the Pentagon's Global Policy and Partnerships Division.
He handed the reins of the 911th to Col. Jeffrey Van Dootingh, who most recently led the Air Force Reserve's programs division at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.
When Peters arrived at the 911th in May 2012, the base was being considered as part of military cost cuts as the federal government aimed to reduce Defense spending by $450 billion over 10 years.
Peters worked with elected officials to keep the 911th open even as he set an ambitious agenda for more than 1,200 reservists and 500 civilian employees.
The 911th safely flew 5,135 hours of missions during his command and improved the efficiency of its operations, reducing energy usage by 29 percent and water usage by 35 percent, officials said.
Reservist Ian Lowe said Peters had been a inspiring leader who was leaving the base stronger than when he arrived.
“From day one, he was very open and forward with us about the fact that this base had a critical role in the overall mission of the Air Force and that he would work tirelessly to do whatever he could to keep it open,” said Lowe, of Bethlehem.
Major General Stayce Harris, commander of the 22nd Air Force, said she expected Pittsburgh's base would continue to adapt to changing military needs and perhaps take on new roles, including “cyber missions.”
Van Dootingh said he hoped to build on Peters' efforts in supporting the reservists.
“What I never forget is that everyone here is a volunteer,” Van Dootingh said after the ceremony. “I just want to work for them and give them every opportunity to serve their country.”