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Lt. Gen. Philip Breedlove receives the 3rd Air Force guidon from Gen. Roger Brady, the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, during an assumption of command ceremony Tuesday in a hangar at Ramstein Air Base.

Lt. Gen. Philip Breedlove receives the 3rd Air Force guidon from Gen. Roger Brady, the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, during an assumption of command ceremony Tuesday in a hangar at Ramstein Air Base. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Lt. Gen. Philip Breedlove officially took over 3rd Air Force during a ceremony Tuesday, vowing to strengthen U.S. relations with NATO partners and continue the command’s "warfighting legacy."

Breedlove is an F-16 pilot with 31 years of military service who is no stranger to Germany or Europe. He returns for what will be his sixth assignment in Europe and fourth tour in Germany. He was first stationed at Ramstein Air Base in 1986 as a pilot with the 526th Tactical Fighter Squadron, a unit that no longer exists at this flagship base.

"Germany will always hold a special place in our hearts," he said of his family’s return.

Breedlove replaces Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop, who relinquished command last month and will officially retire from the military on Aug. 1 after 34 years of service.

Hundreds of airmen, Defense Department employees and politicians from across the area attended the assumption of command ceremony inside the base’s cavernous C-5 hangar.

The 3rd Air Force is an operational headquarters that plans and coordinates combat and humanitarian operations. The command’s history dates to 1941. It deactivated in 2005 before returning in 2006 to take on the operational role for U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

Gen. Roger Brady, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, said Breedlove is a "perfect match" for the headquarters because of his vast experience in Europe.

Breedlove served as commander of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base in Italy between June 2004 and June 2005 before taking over as vice commander of 16th Air Force in 2005. He served as vice director for Strategic Plans and Policy for the Joint Staff at the Pentagon before coming to the 3rd Air Force.

"Phil, it’s your time," said Brady before handing the 3rd Air Force flag to Breedlove during the ceremony. "I’m glad you and [wife] Cindy are on our team."


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