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Lt. Gen. Thomas Waskow, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander, passes the guidon of the 35th Fighter Wing, Misawa Air Base, Japan, to Col. William J. Rew, right, during the 35th Fighter Wing and Misawa installation change of command ceremony Thursday. Colonel Rew assumed command from Brig. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, who moves on to become vice commander, Seventh Air Force and United States Air Forces Korea, and chief of staff, Air Component Command, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea.
Lt. Gen. Thomas Waskow, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander, passes the guidon of the 35th Fighter Wing, Misawa Air Base, Japan, to Col. William J. Rew, right, during the 35th Fighter Wing and Misawa installation change of command ceremony Thursday. Colonel Rew assumed command from Brig. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, who moves on to become vice commander, Seventh Air Force and United States Air Forces Korea, and chief of staff, Air Component Command, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. (Courtesy of USAF)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — It was déjà vu for two commanders who happen to be old friends.

During a change-of-command ceremony on a brilliant spring morning here Thursday, Col. William Rew took the reins of the 35th Fighter Wing from the outgoing commander, Brig. Gen. Dana T. Atkins.

The handover marks the second time that Rew follows in the footsteps of Atkins: In June 2001, Rew assumed command from Atkins of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.

“Taking the flag today from Gen. Atkins is clearly déjà vu for me,” he said to the hundreds of airmen and dozens of senior leaders and Japanese civic and military officials gathered in an open-air hangar. “I know how tough an act it is for the Rews to follow the Atkins. Because of that experience, though, I have the peace of mind knowing that I’m inheriting a wing in top form, a wing that has proven itself in the fire of combat overseas, and also a wing that’s proven itself in very, very tough inspections” at home.

Rew said he and his family were excited about returning to Misawa, where the brigadier general-select commanded the 35th Operations Group from June 1998 to June 2000.

“When I arrived here a couple of days ago, I got a welcome note from Gen. Atkins in my room,” Rew said.

At the bottom, Atkins had written, “ ‘You’re the luckiest man on the face of the earth.’ That’s exactly what I was feeling — my family and I are incredibly happy to be making our home once again here in Misawa.”

Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Waskow, commander of the 5th Air Force and U.S. Forces Japan, presided over the handoff, praising Atkins — whom he called “D.T.” — for his leadership and welcoming Rew back to Misawa.

“The impressive list of projects and accomplishments planned and executed under D.T.’s watch firmly illustrates why Misawa is lauded as the ideal Air Force assignment,” said Waskow, who later bestowed the outgoing commander with the Legion of Merit.

Atkins moves on to South Korea, where he’ll serve as vice commander of the 7th Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Korea, and chief of staff for the Air Component Command at Osan Air Base.

In his farewell speech, Atkins ran down a list of his fondest Misawa memories, from spending New Year’s Day in the home of Misawa Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki to catching salmon at Shimoda’s salmon fest.

“Truly, this is a sad day to depart but I depart with a huge smile on my face with the knowledge that this wing, that this installation, is under the leadership of Bill Rew,” he said.

Rew is a command pilot with more than 3,800 flight hours in the F-16A/C, T/A-38 and T-37 aircraft. In his last assignment at Shaw, he served as director of operations, Headquarters 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces.

He’s a 1979 graduate of the Air Force Academy.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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