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Army Gen. B.B. Bell, left, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, hands the Air Component Command flag to Air Force Lt. Gen. Stephen G. Wood, who took command of the unit and U.S. 7th Air Force during a ceremony at Osan Air Base on Monday. Wood replaced Lt. Gen. Garry R. Trexler, right, who headed both units since November 2003.

Army Gen. B.B. Bell, left, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, hands the Air Component Command flag to Air Force Lt. Gen. Stephen G. Wood, who took command of the unit and U.S. 7th Air Force during a ceremony at Osan Air Base on Monday. Wood replaced Lt. Gen. Garry R. Trexler, right, who headed both units since November 2003. (U.S. Air Force)

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Lt. Gen. Stephen G. Wood became the top U.S. Air Force commander in South Korea on Monday in a ceremony at this air base 48 miles from Korea’s Demilitarized Zone.

Wood replaced Lt. Gen. Garry R. Trexler as commander of both the U.S. 7th Air Force and the Air Component Command (ACC).

Trexler held both posts since November 2003. He is retiring Jan. 1 to Tennessee after a 36-year Air Force career.

Wood previously was deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs at Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The ACC is the air arm of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command.

As Air Component commander, Wood’s wartime job would be to oversee the air war, reporting to the U.S. Forces Korea commander. As 7th Air Force commander, Wood becomes the head of all U.S. Air Force units in South Korea.

“I fully realize the trust placed upon me,” he told the audience of servicemembers and dignitaries inside Osan’s 5th Reconnaissance Squadron hangar.

“I will work tirelessly” to ensure that airmen are “‘ready to fight tonight,’” Wood said, invoking a common USFK motto.

USFK Commander Army Gen. B.B. Bell praised Trexler for excellence of leadership as well as “warriorship.”

He said Trexler’s “no hype” leadership has kept the South Korea-U.S. alliance well-honed for its wartime mission.

Air Force Gen. Paul V. Hester, who commands the U.S. Air Force throughout the Pacific region, echoed the praise.

“Garry has set the tone and set the standards of ‘Fight tonight and win,’” he said, using another USFK motto.

“I have been immensely proud to serve as your commander,” Trexler said of his service in South Korea.

“I’ve learned,” he said near the end of his speech, becoming abruptly silent and with emotion playing across his face, “how great … the United States of America is,” and when he again faltered the audience broke into applause.

“I’ve seen thousands,” he continued, “of Americans come through here each year, each ready to give their lives for this nation.”

“In closing,” Trexler said, “I will never forget those who serve here. I will never forget what you do here, and I — ” and his voice again quavered “ — I will never forget this place. Finally, may God bless you all.”

During the ceremony, Trexler received two awards: the Order of National Security Merit, Guksan, from South Korea and America’s Defense Distinguished Service Medal, second oak leaf cluster.

Wood was commissioned in the Air Force in 1974 after graduating from the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Washington, Seattle. His assignments have included command of two fighter squadrons, an operations group, a fighter wing and the Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.


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