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Col. Don Bacon, center, and Col. Thomas Gould, right, render a salute to Maj. Gen. Mark Zamzow, 3rd Air Force vice commander, during the 435th Air Base Wing change of command ceremony Thursday in a hanger at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Gould assumed command of the largest support wing in the Air Force.

Col. Don Bacon, center, and Col. Thomas Gould, right, render a salute to Maj. Gen. Mark Zamzow, 3rd Air Force vice commander, during the 435th Air Base Wing change of command ceremony Thursday in a hanger at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Gould assumed command of the largest support wing in the Air Force. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

Col. Don Bacon, center, and Col. Thomas Gould, right, render a salute to Maj. Gen. Mark Zamzow, 3rd Air Force vice commander, during the 435th Air Base Wing change of command ceremony Thursday in a hanger at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Gould assumed command of the largest support wing in the Air Force.

Col. Don Bacon, center, and Col. Thomas Gould, right, render a salute to Maj. Gen. Mark Zamzow, 3rd Air Force vice commander, during the 435th Air Base Wing change of command ceremony Thursday in a hanger at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Gould assumed command of the largest support wing in the Air Force. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

Col. Thomas Gould receives the guidon from Maj. Gen. Mark Zamzow, 3rd Air Force vice commander.

Col. Thomas Gould receives the guidon from Maj. Gen. Mark Zamzow, 3rd Air Force vice commander. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

European edition, Friday, June 12, 2009

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Speaking inside a cavernous hangar, Air Force Col. Don Bacon, outgoing commander of the 435th Air Base Wing, said in a change-of-command ceremony Thursday that the wing he commanded was "the biggest, the busiest and the best."

Col. Thomas Gould, the newly installed 435th commander, got to see just how busy things are at Ramstein Air Base, as noise from C-130 engines nearly drowned out a chunk of his welcoming remarks. Gould was reminiscing about how much had changed at Ramstein in 20 years just as the engine noise outside the hangar peaked.

"All that you required to get on base was a decal on your windshield and on your bumper," Gould said. "The Cold War was still going on. The 86th Tactical Fighter Wing was the host unit. The dollar-to-Deutsch-Mark exchange was quite favorable. I guess you can say a lot has changed in the past 20 years … Can anyone still hear me?"

Undaunted, Gould pressed on with his speech, and the engines fell silent about a minute later.

Gould, a fighter pilot with 380 combat-flight hours, comes to Ramstein after having served as operations group commander for the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy. His previous assignments include working as the Air Force’s military aide to the U.S. president from March 2000 to March 2002.

Gould takes command of the Air Force’s largest support wing with five groups, 20 squadrons, 29 geographically separated units and 7,800 personnel. It’s a job Bacon served in for almost a year.

In Bacon’s time as 435th Air Base Wing commander, the wing’s driving-under-the-influence rate was cut in half, said 3rd Air Force Vice Commander Maj. Gen. Mark Zamzow, who officiated over the ceremony.

"It’s readily apparent that Don feels so strongly about his personnel because he focused intently on taking care of them," Zamzow said.

Bacon also cracked down on dependent/civilian misconduct, barring at least 11 individuals from entering military installations in Europe, and he helped push through online testing for Air Force personnel in Germany, so drivers could test for their license before moving to Germany.

Bacon leaves the 435th to serve as one of two vice commanders at the 3rd Air Force.

Stripes’ reporter Jennifer Svan contributed to this story.

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