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Fourth Air Force's top post changes hands

  • Published
  • By Major Colleen Johnson
  • Fourth Air Force public affairs
Hundreds gathered here Jan. 25th, 2009, in a vivid ceremony as Major General Robert E. Duignan relinquished command of the Fourth Air Force to Brigadier General Eric W. Crabtree.  Maj. Gen. Duignan retired during the ceremony concluding a 36-year career in Air Force service. 

Brig. Gen. Crabtree assumed command after serving as the Headquarter Air Reserve Personnel Center commander in Denver since September 2007. 

Held in a C-17 Globemaster III maintenance hangar, the ceremony kicked off with the arrival of past and present senior Air Force leaders, local civic leaders, friends and family members who traveled from across the country to witness the event. 

Over the stage, a 70-ft American flag hung from the rafters, framed by cloudy skies and flanked by a KC-135 Stratotanker and a C-17 Globemaster III.  From their vantage point, audience members took in this impressive backdrop for a ceremony filled with well-wishes, reflection, and encouragement for the future. 

Lieutenant General Charles E. Stenner, Chief of Air Force Reserve and Commander, Air Force Reserve Command, presided over the change of command.  He reminisced on the 1990's when Maj. Gen. Duignan and he labored to take care of people while meeting changing mission requirements during Base Realignment and Closure actions. 

"We learned from each other," he said, "answering the many challenging questions that arise when faced with command and an evolving Total Force. [Maj. Gen. Duignan's] initiative, vision, execution and leadership have taken us to today's fight." 

He challenged the new commander, Brig. Gen. Crabtree. "I welcome you and have confidence in your leadership as we pass the baton to you," he said. 

After addressing the audience, Brig. Gen. Crabtree recognized the three former commanders of Fourth Air Force in attendance. "It is a daunting task to fill the shoes of these great men," he said. "You left a valuable mark on Fourth Air Force, and I intend to do the same." 

He then turned to the members of Fourth Air Force, laying out some of the challenges that lie ahead. "We need to learn and align with the priorities of our new administration, especially in terms of budgeting for our mission needs in the current economy," he said. 

Pointing out the requirement of digitization and modernization of our force assets, he added "I will expect feedback from the field to show our leaders how we can create products to support these needs." 

Recognizing the continual partnership the Reserves strives for with the Regular and Guard forces of the Air Force, he vowed his confidence in his team. "I know the men and women of Fourth Air Force are working hard globally to accomplish the mission. I pledge to be your strongest advocate, to help you be our best and most effective organization for today's Air Force. 

After the change of command, Lieutenant General James E. Sherrard III (retired) officiated Maj. Gen. Duignan's retirement ceremony. Lt. Gen. Sherrard's final post prior to his retirement in 2004 was Chief of Air Force Reserve and Commander, Air Force Reserve Command. 

While reflecting on their experiences together working at the Pentagon, to include the attacks of 9/11, he spoke of their frank discussions while carpooling on the D.C. Beltway.  These discussions sharpened his own leadership skills, he said.  "It is a bittersweet task to retire someone you've worked with.  Time flies by," he said.  "Gen. Duignan worries about how his decisions impact people.  He always stuck to the task--sometimes very difficult tasks with hard decisions that impacted people.  He took that aspect of his job very seriously." 

After speaking warm wishes and heartfelt thanks to the Duignan family for their sacrifices over the years, Lt. Gen. Sherrard encouraged his friend once again.  "One chapter is closed, but the next will be equally challenging, successful and rewarding because I know [you] and what you will do."  Turning to the audience, he continued. "The Air Force Core Values of Integrity, Service, and Excellence are sitting right in that chair. That's Bob Duignan. Best of luck to you." 

Maj. Gen. Duignan took the stage one last time to say good-bye to his troops.  "It's so much easier talking about other people when I officiated their retirements than hearing others talk about me," he said.  "This is the hardest retirement ceremony of my career."
"This [Air Force] family is unique," he said.  "It's an honor to be in this family." 

He thanked his wife and children for their support and companionship throughout his career.  Addressing his wife, Karen Petruskevich, he paused. "You helped me think out loud and figure things out.  Thanks for always listening and never judging." 

Maj. Gen. Duignan summed up the call to military service for all those belonging to Fourth Air Force and even his own family members.  "We all have jobs to do and need to figure out how best to do them.  Put bombs on target and win the war," he said. 

In a touching finale, Maj. Gen. Duignan's son, Marine Sergeant Kyle Duignan, presented his father with an American flag and a sharp, Marine salute.  SGT. Duignan is gearing up to embark on his sixth tour in the Global War on Terror.  Maj. Gen. Duignan voiced his pride for his son's choice to serve.  "He knew there was a job to do and he does it well." 

Lightening the atmosphere, he turned to the new commander.  "I promise not to just drop in and say hi.  In fact, I'll leave that blackberry right in the center of my desk.  It only goes off about 150 times a day, so it's all yours. 

"Every job I had is the best job I ever had," he concluded.  "We've done quite a bit--I haven't done much but you all [in Fourth Air Force] have done everything.  I'll miss each and every one of you.  Thank you."