New commander takes charge at Spangdahlem AB
August 1, 2004
SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany — Leadership of Germany’s only fighter base changed hands Friday when Col. David Goldfein assumed command of the 52nd Fighter Wing from Col. Stephen Mueller.
“No words can express the gratitude I have for your devotion to duty, your sacrifice and your accomplishment of a demanding mission,” Mueller told airmen assembled in a base hangar for the traditional ceremony.
Under Mueller’s command, the wing deployed 3,600 airmen in support of war and peacetime missions over the last two years. It is preparing to deploy another 1,000 airmen starting next month as part of their regular Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotations.
The wing, which has more than 5,500 members, operates F-16 CJ Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, as well as TPS-75 radar systems.
“What a time to be a wing commander — to prepare for and fight and win a couple of wars,” said Maj. Gen. Michael C. Gould, commander of the 3rd Air Force and officiator of the ceremony.
Gould lauded Mueller’s leadership and his work transforming the Cold War-era fighter base into a combined fighter-airlift hub, which will start launching cargo planes next year. Spangdahlem and Ramstein Air Base will handle all the strategic airlift missions now at Rhein-Main Air Base, which will close in December 2005.
Gould also awarded Mueller the Legion of Merit in recognition of his distinguished service while at Spangdahlem.
With the passage of the wing guidon from Mueller to Gould to Goldfein, the new commander’s position was official. In a nod to the new leadership, Mueller’s name was removed from the side of the wing F-16 flagship and Goldfein’s name was revealed. Mueller, who has been selected for the rank of brigadier general, will become chief of staff of the Joint Warfare Center Allied Command Transformation, NATO, Stavanger, Norway.
“Today, you’re getting a commander of equal caliber,” Gould said of Goldfein. Goldfein was commander of the 366th Operations Group at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, before coming to Spangdahlem.
Before Goldfein began his short speech, he told the airmen who had been standing at attention in formation for 40 minutes in the sweltering hangar to relax for a minute and shake out their legs. There was a collective murmur of relief.
Some airmen later said they had never before witnessed such an acknowledgment at a formal ceremony.
Goldfein told the airmen that on Sept. 11, 2001, he had just left his office at the Pentagon when the terrorists slammed the airliner into the building. He spent the days and weeks following the attack helping his colleagues recover.
“My focus is simple,” Goldfein said of his leadership plans at Spangdahlem. “To prepare to fight, to fight to win and to take care of each other.”