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Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, left, passes the wing guidon to Col. Scott P. Goodwin as Goodwin assumes command of Yokota Air Base in a change of command ceremony Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, left, passes the wing guidon to Col. Scott P. Goodwin as Goodwin assumes command of Yokota Air Base in a change of command ceremony Wednesday. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Yokota’s 374th Airlift Wing, the oldest in the Pacific theater — with roots dating to 1942 — has a new leader.

Col. Scott P. Goodwin accepted the wing’s flag from Col. Mark Schissler on Wednesday morning in a colorful change-of-command ceremony attended by active-duty personnel, the base’s upper echelon and Japanese dignitaries. Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, the U.S. Forces Japan commander who also heads the 5th Air Force, presided over the exchange, which took place inside Hangar 15 near the Yokota flightline.

“As always, it’s a bittersweet ceremony,” Wright told the audience. “On one hand, I’m very happy to be welcoming Scott and Ann Goodwin to Yokota Air Base and our 5th Air Force family, but on the other, it’s a difficult thing to say goodbye to Mark and Marcia Schissler, who have served the 374th Airlift Wing and the United States Air Force so well over the last two years.”

With the United States Air Force Band of the Pacific-Asia pumping out music, an honor guard presenting the colors and two giant U.S. and Japanese flags hanging behind the stage, Goodwin supplanted Schissler for the second time in two years. He had served as the 463rd Airlift Group commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., a job Schissler held before arriving at Yokota in July 2003.

“This is the second time I’ve followed you into an assignment. Considering your next duty station is the Pentagon, I’d prefer not to make it three in a row,” Goodwin quipped during the ceremony.

Schissler is returning to the Pentagon for a fifth tour. This time, he’ll become the assistant deputy director of international negotiations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff plans and programs directorate, multilateral affairs division.

Goodwin — a command pilot with more than 3,200 hours in the C-130, C-21 and T-41 — arrives at Yokota on his first Pacific stint. Like Schissler, this will be his debut as a permanent wing commander.

The 374th Airlift Wing is comprised of 17 squadrons with more than 2,000 military members and civilians, as well as 1,000 Japanese employees. The base has a population of about 11,500 people.

“It is a special privilege to be joining an organization with such a rich legacy,” said Goodwin, who is accompanied by his wife, Ann, and daughters Lauren and Ashley.

“We are equally pleased to become part of such a wonderful community. It’s clear the bonds between Yokota Air Base and our surrounding Japanese communities are strong.”

Wright praised Schissler’s leadership over the past two years, adding that the wing captured 177 higher headquarters-level awards during his tenure.

Schissler said his departure from Yokota would be felt more on a personal level.

“When I arrived here two years ago, I did not know a word of Japanese nor a single Japanese person,” he added. “In 23 months, we’ve learned a great deal about Japanese history, culture and geography. … I will remember with a smile places like Kyoto, Nikko, Sapporo and Tokyo. I’ll never forget (Mount) Fuji from the air or climbed on foot; the festivals, the fireworks or the fish. I ate a lot of fish.

“When I let go of the wing flag, that will end the most satisfying experience of my entire life.”

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