53rd CoC
Col. David Hicks, Col. Michael Gantt and Maj. Gen. James Hyatt, the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander, salute the flag during the national anthem at the 53rd Wing change of command ceremony at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 26. Hicks took command of the wing from Gantt. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
Hicks takes command of 53rd Wing

by Lois Walsh
Team Eglin Public Affairs

7/26/2011 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- From the battlefields of Afghanistan to a hangar on Eglin's flightline, Col. David Hicks travelled thousands of miles to take command of the 53rd Wing.

The change of command, with Maj. Gen. James Hyatt presiding, saw Hicks assume command from Col. Michael Gantt. Gantt, is reassigned to Air Force A-5, Plans and Requirements, the Pentagon.

Hyatt, commander of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, Nellis AFB, Nev., said the 53rd is a one-of-a-kind wing who finds problems and fixes them for the war fighter. He said because of the wing, no one goes into combat unprepared or ill equipped.

"There a lot of men and women alive today, a lot of airmen have been successful today and a lot of families have their loved ones back today because of the great work the 53rd Wing has done in the last decade as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan move on," he said. "The good news is our aviators and our warriors know the weapons work as advertised."

Hyatt thanked Gantt for his passion and drive and being a champion of his people. The colonel had thanks of his own, from community leaders, fellow commanders and Airmen in the wing. He said "it was a day about thanks," and spoke of the time he shared with the new commander when both were students and on the football team at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He was awarded the Legion of Merit medal for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.

"It's been an honor to serve as the commander and watch you serve our nation," Gantt said as he addressed his wing.

After the 53rd guidon passed to Hicks, the new commander also addressed the troops. He said he is looking forward to knowing and working with the wing's personnel.

"My last year was spent in Afghanistan and I got to see first-hand the difference you are making with what you do day in and day out. I have seen the lives you saved and the difference you make on the battlefield," Hicks said. "To come back here and work with you directly-- I can't put into words how much I'm looking forward to it, knowing the combat impact you are making right now in Afghanistan and in other conflicts."

The 53rd Wing serves as the Air Force's focal point for operational test and evaluation of armament and avionics, aircrew training devices, chemical defense, aerial reconnaissance improvements, electronic warfare systems, and is responsible for the QF-4 and subscale drone programs. The wing tests every fighter, bomber, unmanned aerial vehicle, and weapon system in the Air Force inventory. The wing operates in 22 locations in 12 states across the country.