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Brig. Gen. Philip M. Breedlove.
Brig. Gen. Philip M. Breedlove. ()

An Air Force officer whose mission is to train F-16 fighter pilots will soon be leading one of the most prominent places in the world where they perform daily.

Brig. Gen. Philip M. Breedlove will take command of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy, next month. He’s set to replace Brig. Gen. Mike Worden, who will assume duties as director of operational plans and joint matters for the deputy chief of staff for Air and Space Operations at Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C.

It won’t be Breedlove’s first assignment in Europe. He served in Spain and Germany in the 1980s before spending the time since then in the Pacific theater and the States. Currently, he’s commander of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The wing is the largest in the Air Force, with hundreds of pilots and crew chiefs graduating from training each year.

The base has more than 200 F-16s.

At Aviano, he’ll be responsible for a lot fewer aircraft in a high-profile position. Aviano’s role in the NATO bombing campaign over Yugoslavia made it famous throughout Italy and surrounding countries.

The change of command ceremony is scheduled for June 18.

A week later, Aviano’s Army neighbor to the west will see several leadership changes. Col. Kevin Owens, currently operations officer for the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) in Vicenza will take over as commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Col. Bill Mayville, the 173rd commander, will become SETAF’s chief of staff. Col. Blair Ross, who currently holds that position, will head south to Naples to become director of staff for NATO Joint Forces Command.

Owens, who came to Italy last summer after leading a Ranger battalion in Afghanistan, assumes command June 25.

Brig. Gen. Jason Kamiya took command of SETAF on April 30.

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