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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — With five of the top six commanders here scheduled to leave this summer, Misawa airmen are facing a significant “cultural” change.

Military officials say that despite the leadership shuffle — including 35th Fighter Wing commander Brig. Gen. Bill Rew and three of his four group commanders — readiness will not be impacted.

“I don’t see it impacting our readiness — we all know our job,” said Capt. Jeff Crawford, military personnel flight commander. The challenge lies in learning how to best work under the new senior leaders and with their expectations, he said.

“With three of the four group commanders (changing), that’s a big cultural change. They have a new way of doing things,” he said.

Though summer is the busiest time for transfers to new duty stations — about 350 Misawa personnel are scheduled for reassignment between June and September — the base is losing a few more senior-level commanders in the current cycle than is typical, officials said.

Commanders are usually here on two-year billets, and it so happens that a number of them are ending within months of one another, Crawford said. Another contributing factor is that two years ago the Air Force reduced the number of assignment cycles for officers from four to three, he said. Air Force personnel officials said at the time that about 50 percent of officers scheduled to move would do so during the summer each year.

“A lot of folks request to stay until their kids are out of school and leave in the summer,” Crawford said.

About 90,000 enlisted troops throughout the Air Force are scheduled to move this summer, he said, citing information from the Air Force Personnel Center.

Base officials said they don’t know how many new personnel are moving to Misawa this summer but estimate they’ll probably receive about the same number as those leaving.

The high turnover means a greater chance of deploying for airmen who have been here during Misawa’s next Aerospace Expeditionary Force cycle this fall, officials said. New personnel aren’t supposed to deploy for the first 60 to 90 days at their new duty station, said Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Griffin, chief of personnel relocations.

The busy moving season also means more work for support units, from lodging and the post office to civil engineering and the transportation management office, which is responsible for shipment of household goods.

Rotating command

At the top of Misawa’s summer leadership shuffle is Brig. Gen. Bill Rew, who is to head to Nevada to command the 57th Wing, Air Combat Command at Nellis Air Force Base. Rew is departing nine months earlier than anticipated, base officials noted. Brig. Gen. (select) Salvatore “Sam” Angelella will take over the 35th Fighter Wing in a change-of-command ceremony scheduled for late August.

Already departed is 35th Fighter Wing vice commander Col. Don Weckhorst, who is the new Pacific Air Forces inspector general. His replacement, Col. Michael Bartley, has been on the job for about one month.

Next in the pecking order are the group commanders: Col. Nelson Cabot already has taken the helm of the 35th Operations Group from Col. Mike Boera. Boera assumes command of the 36th Air Expeditionary Wing at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on Monday. Col. Thomas Yanni, 35th Mission Support Group commander, is saying his farewells ahead of his change-of-command ceremony this week. His successor is Col. Arnold Holcomb.

The last of the group commanders to switch out this summer is 35th Medical Group commander Col. Bryan Funke. His replacement, Col. Mary S. Armour from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., is to arrive in mid-August.

The other recent or upcoming leadership changes at the squadron level are:

35th Operational Support Squadron: Lt. Col. Ron Patrick to Lt. Col. Franz Plescha.35th Services Squadron: Lt. Col. Kari Mostert to Maj. Tim Sites.35th Comptroller Squadron: Lt. Col. Karen Mertes to Maj. Michael Vaughn.35th Security Forces Squadron: Maj. Joe Milner to Maj. Robert Kafka.35th Communications Squadron: Lt. Col. Kevin Bennett to Maj. William Poirer.35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron: Lt. Col. Geoffrey Parkhurst to Lt. Col. Stuart A. Lum.35th Maintenance Squadron: Lt. Col. Kyle Cornell to Lt. Col. Stephen Williams.35th Medical Support Squadron: Lt. Col. Michael Schell to Lt. Col. D. Scott Guermonprez.35th Medical Operations Squadron: Lt. Col. Hans Ritschard to Lt. Col. David Blake.— Stars and Stripes

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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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