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479th Flying Training Group welcomes new commander

479th FTG Change of Command

Col. Mark Robinson, 12th Flying Training Wing commander, salutes Col. William O'Brien during the 479th Flying Training Group change of command ceremony June 23, 2020 at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Sean Leuschen)

Naval Air Station-Pensacola --

In front of a socially distanced audience, comprised of a few close family members, leadership, and loved ones, the 479th Flying Training Group turned the next chapter as Col. Charles McElvaine relinquished command to Col. William O’Brien, IV. The ceremony was presided over by Col. Mark Robinson, 12th Flying Training Wing commander, at Naval Air Station Pensacola’s National Naval Aviation Museum.

The change of command ceremony is among the oldest traditions in the military. Dating back to the 18th century, the customs of the ceremony have remained relatively unaltered. However, with COVID-19, all norms are susceptible to change to maintain the safety of personnel.  Despite the smaller audience size and modified protocols, the ceremony was a success.

Col. McElvaine ends a command tour that spans three years and has resulted in the production of 727 of the world’s most lethal Combat Systems Officers, greater than 52,600 flying hours, and the largest overhaul of course syllabi in over a decade. His drastic course modification has resulted in a production increase of over thirty percent, all without any additional costs or resources. During his speech, he reflected on the assignment, “having the opportunity to command here for these three years has been the biggest honor of my professional life, and I have no doubt that the outstanding cadre and staff here will continue to propel Undergraduate Combat Systems Officer Training to great success in the years to come.” He will now move on to shape future senior leaders as a professor at the National War College, Washington D.C.

Col. O’Brien enters command with the combination of recent tactical relevance and leadership that will have an immediate impact on the production of Air Force CSO's. Excited about his return to NAS-Pensacola, he said “I am humbled and privileged to be given the opportunity to lead such a great team -- leading a unique mission such as our only Combat Systems Officer training pipeline. These future aviators are a linchpin as the Air Force transitions from a platform-centric to a net-centric approach to warfare.” In his previous assignment, he was the Division Chief Enterprise and Engagement, Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Directorate, Headquarters United States Air Force  Arlington, Virginia. Additionally, as a Master CSO and U.S. Air Force Weapons School graduate, he brings more than 2,600 flight hours in the B-1, T-34, T-1, T-39, AT-38, E-8, RC-135, HH-60, F-16CM, and F-15D.