72nd MSG welcomes new commander

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- Col. Dean Jackson surrendered command of the 72nd Mission Support Group to Col. James Eilers in an outside ceremony July 9.
   About 150 military and civilian personnel attended the change of command ritual in the Tinker Club's east parking lot.
   "Jim was our number one choice for this job, in what is always a heartfelt bidding war when we go after new group commanders," said Col. Mark Correll, 72nd Air Base Wing, installation commander and presiding officer over the ceremony. "We won the fight, and he has just the right background to take the mission support group to new heights. He is the right leader at the right time for Tinker."
   Col. Eilers came to Tinker from Air Force Materiel Command Headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where he was chief of the Supply Operations Division.
   Col. Eilers, a Pennsylvania native who is bilingual in English and Spanish, was commissioned a second lieutenant through Officer's Training School in January 1984. He has completed 20 assignments; of them, eight were overseas.
   Although Col. Eilers has never been stationed at Tinker, he said he's come to the Oklahoma installation for temporary duty assignments in the past.
   "I've always been in awe of the mission and the people here," said the new mission support group commander. "Everyone I talked to about Tinker and Oklahoma kept telling me over and over and over again how much we'd love it here because the people are so wonderful and such great patriots."
   Now at the base, Col. Eilers thanked his predecessor and said he's looking forward to fulfilling his commitment to excellence.
   "Col. Jackson, I'm truly impressed with the way you pulled this group together," he said. "It's clear you led this group with energy, dedication and conviction.
   "As your commander you can expect me to serve with relentless dedication and enthusiasm as we continue to move forward," Col. Eilers said. "My primary focus will be our mission and taking what you have been doing to the next level."
   Before Col. Jackson relinquished command, the mission support group saluted him one last time. The Airmen stood at attention behind Lt. Col. Jonathan Leathers, 72nd MSG deputy commander, and saluted their leader. The civilians and contractors standing in formation to the left of the Airmen smiled and waved.
   In his last speech as 72nd MSG commander, Col. Jackson welcomed Col. Eilers.
   "(Col. Eilers) you're about to embark on a great journey to the most demanding and the most rewarding professional challenge you've ever undertaken," Col. Jackson said. "To make it even better, you'll be part of the most supportive, patriotic and all-American community in the United States."
   Col. Jackson also thanked his troop for their accomplishments, a job well done and their continuous efforts.
   "What a great journey we've had over the last two years," Col. Jackson said. "An (operational readiness inspection), a (unit compliance inspection), three air shows, more deployments and inspections that we can count and all that on top of providing essential base and mission support to an installation that quite frankly, dwarfs most others in the United States Air Force."
   Col. Jackson received a Legion of Merit award for his service as 72nd MSG commander and his wife, Jeanne, received a bouquet of full-bloom red roses to symbolize her accomplishments within the Tinker community.
   "I believe all organizations have great people, but what sets them apart as great organizations are those who lead them," Col. Correll said. "Dean, the wing and Team Tinker owes you a debt of gratitude for the leadership you brought to the air base wing, the support you provided across Team Tinker and the foundation you've laid as we move forward into an even more demanding future."
   On July 11, Col. Jackson retired after 35 years of service to the Air Force.