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Change of Command at Columbus Air Force Base

Major Gen. Mark S. Solo, Col. James R. Sears Jr. and Col. Barre Seguin stand together at the end of the change of command ceremony.

Columbus said goodbye to Col. Barre Seguin at a traditional military ceremony on Wednesday morning where he passed the command of the Columbus Air Force Base 14th Flying Training Wing to Col. James R. Sears Jr.

Elected officials, members of the community, decorated military heroes and airmen assembled in a hangar in front of a giant American Flag to witness the change of command ceremony and send off Seguin after two years of service as commander.

Under his leadership, the 14th Training Wing graduated 632 pilots, the CAFB celebrated their 70th Anniversary, and was responsible for the production of 1/3 of the nation’s new Air Force, including CAFB being named the No. 1 producer of pilots in the USA in 2011.

“Serving as the 14th Flying Training Wing Commander has been the most rewarding and humbling experience of my time in the Air Force,” said Seguin in an interview with The Packet. “This is the most difficult assignment for me to leave, based on the personal relationships I’ve developed, both with Airmen and community supporters, and the tremendous professionalism and competency of our Airmen in accomplishing the mission. I am proud and humbled by the many and great accomplishments of Team BLAZE and our broader community over the last two years. I look forward to watching, with great pride, from afar and Columbus AFB continues to lead the way in our U.S. Air Force.”

Seguin said he and his family have loved the community of Columbus in their time here. When asked of his initial impressions upon first arriving in the city, he said. “We were VERY impressed with the Main Street USA and historic home district. We were equally impressed with the hospitality and warmth of the community. Our appreciation for Columbus and the support provided our Airmen and their families has deepened over time, and we’re thankful for the many lifelong relationships we’ve developed. We thank the community for embracing and enriching our family and for embracing the families of our Airmen and allowing them to become a part of and enrich the community.”

As base commander, Seguin was responsible for managing the wing”s 3,100 airmen as well as overseeing a $127 million annual budget and other capital assets, which exceed $1.6 billion.

Seguin has carried out missions as an instructor pilot, flight examiner, wing chief of safety and operations officer. He participated in combat Operations Southern Watch, Deliberate Guard, Deliberate Forge and Joint Guardian. Before assuming control of the 14th Flying Training Wing, he was the commander of the 8th Operations Group in the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.

He announced at the ceremony that he and his family would be leaving immediately to Washington D.C., where Seguin will begin serving at his new position at the Pentagon as the Executive Officer to the Vice Chief of Staff.
“I will be working to not only meet the needs of the Vice Chief, but also to serve the larger Headquarters Air Force staff in the flow of information to the Vice Chief for decisions and guidance,” he said. “Learning and seeing the senior levels of leadership work on the greatest issues facing our Air Force will be a great learning experience. Being new to the Pentagon and the Washington area, will also provide me an opportunity to see how the Headquarters works. The position will be a very humbling and insightful one, particularly given the current challenges associated with reduced budgets.”

He said his family has adopted the slogan, “Home is where the Air Force assigns us!” So while they have enjoyed their time in Columbus, they are looking forward to the new adventure of D.C.

“Home is where our family is together,” he said. “In my time in our Air Force, I have been on three year-long remote tours and numerous deployments where family members were not permitted. However, whenever we’ve had the option, we’ve prioritized being together as a family. My wife of nearly 21 years, Nancy, homeschools our 3 children. This daily interaction amongst our children creates a deep bond and friendship that travels with us no matter where we’re stationed. This, too, makes it easier to accept home as being wherever we’re together, no matter the physical location.

“Nancy and I have built a very strong relationship with the community, and have grown to love so many aspects of life in Columbus Mississippi. We will miss the small town feel and southern hospitality that we have come to enjoy, as well as the friendliness and helpfulness of everyone in the community and base.”

When asked of his favorite experience during his time in Columbus, Seguin was stumped.
“We have so many fond and special memories of our time at Columbus AFB and in the community, there almost too numerous to recount,” he said. “Many standout to us: the change of command when we arrived; the 30 graduations where we graduated 632 pilots; the Columbus community being awarded the first-ever Altus Trophy by the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) Commander, General Ed Rice, in January 2011, as the most supportive community of any in AETC; Pilgrimage, which my family participated in as docents in antebellum homes throughout the community; Holiday parties, both at our home and in the community; on and off-sites with our BLAZE Leadership Team (BLT) focused on developing as a team of Servant Leaders; the gala banquet honoring local area D-Day Veterans on the 67th anniversary of D-Day; the Columbus AFB 70th Anniversary Gala celebration where nearly 400 Airmen and base supporters, including former wing commanders Maj. Gen. Seve Wilson, Cols. Tom Quelly and Nick Ardillo enjoyed a vintage evening; time spent with our CAFB Wingmen and Honorary Commanders; families who made Nancy, our children an me part of their families during our time at Columbus; Stephen D. Lee Foundation’s Valentine’s Day events at the Waters’ and the McClain’s homes; time on Laws’ Shoal with John and Verda Laws and their extended family and friends, the Stump Jumpers Ski Club, on every major summertime holiday; our yearly Air Force Birthday Balls, one of which we had our Air Force Vice Chief of Staff as the distinguished guest speaker; the Base Community Council, Nancy Carpenter and the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau so graciously hosting our AETC Commander and his wife, General and Mrs. Ed Rice at Gene and Leigh Imes’ beautiful Rosedale Plantation; Ms. Dixie Butler and the Base Community dazzling our 19th Air Force Commander and his wife, Maj. Gen. and Mrs. Mark Solo, with a pre-reception at Temple Heights and a community reception at Jimmy Graham’s Camp; and, of course, the many and great accomplishments of our Airmen and their families. These accomplishments include: 632 pilots produced; accolades as the busiest base in our U.S. Air Force in 2010 with over 400,000 traffic movement controlled by our radar approach and tower air traffic controllers; maintaining a fleet of 234 aircraft, the most assigned to any base in our Air Force; graduating 57 Airmen from Airmen Leadership School and 84 Airmen from the Community College of the Air Force; deploying 251 Airmen to support overseas contingency operations in 14 countries; advocating for and securing tens of millions of dollars in base improvements, the most in AETC.”

For the community to be successful in the future, Seguin advised that Columbus continue to do what they have over the past 70 years, “provide award-winning hospitality and support and a warm southern hospitality welcome.”

“I frequently hear, “Whatever you need, Colonel…” from community supporters as a way of letting me know they are willing to do whatever it takes to support our Airmen, their families, and the mission. Offer your friendship and support. That’s what the community offered Nancy and me, and that’s what we leave here cherishing the most.”

In the traditional change of command ceremony, Seguin passed the unit flag to Col. Sears. With only a brief, “Sir, I assume command.,” Seguin’s time at CAFB was done.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “Like your mother-in-law driving your brand new Porsche off a cliff.. sorry Nancy.” The crowd laughed genuinely.

“There isn’t a finer nor more supportive community in our AF than Columbus, MS,” said Seguin on a more serious note. “I salute you, Team COLUMBUS, and all you do, day-in and day-out, to support our Airmen, their families, and our mission to PRODUCE PILOTS, ADVANCE AIRMEN, FEED THE FIGHT!”

Before his departure, Seguin was awarded the Seventh-highest honor in the US military, the Legion of Merit, for his service at CAFB.

Col. James R. Sears Jr., the new 14th Flying Training Wind Commander.

CAFB’s newest commander, Col. Sears has a history of being an command pilot with over 3,100 flying hours, including combat over Afghanistan and Iraq. He has flown C-130E, T-3A, F-16 blocks 25-50, and T-38C aircraft.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from the United States Air Force Academy, a Master of Arts in Human Resource Development from Webster University, and has a Master of science in Joint Campaign Planning and Strategy, Joint Advanced Warfighting School, National Defense University.

He has been awarded the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device, the Defense Meritorious Service medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the Humanitarian Service medal with service star, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and various other awards and decorations. Effective immediately, he will be responsible for base support and medical care for the wing’s 3,000 military, civilian and contract Airmen, an operations and maintenance budget of $106 million and capital assets exceeding $1.3 billion. The wing additional supports seven associated units and provides contingency mission support for the Air Education and Training Command.

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