Houston & Peach

General wants April 15, 1953, to remain an important date in Air Force history

Robins instructed to 'keep calm and airman on' at change of command

Col. Lyle Drew takes command of the 78th Air Base Wing at Robins Air Force Base in a ceremony held Wednesday, July 26, 2017, at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins.
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Col. Lyle Drew takes command of the 78th Air Base Wing at Robins Air Force Base in a ceremony held Wednesday, July 26, 2017, at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins.

April 15, 1953, is an important date in the history of U.S. air power, and Lt. Gen. Lee Levy wants to make sure it never changes.

The date is the last time that a U.S. ground troop was killed by an enemy aircraft. He mentioned it while speaking Wednesday at the change of command for the 78th Air Base Wing at Robins Air Force Base.

“Ever since that following day, the 16th of April, 1953, your United States Air Force has enjoyed air dominance around the planet, protecting those ground troops from attack from the sky,” said Levy, who commands the Air Force Sustainment Center. “I will tell you that is not a birthright. It is not an entitlement. It is not a guarantee. Those who would do us harm would gladly see that advantage dissipate.”

While running an air base wing isn’t generally a job young officers dream about, he said, those who do it quickly learn how they contribute to U.S. air power.

“Our job is to deliver combat power for America,” he said. “Every day we should get up thinking about how we make sure that date never gets reset.”

According to a story in Air Force Magazine, two U.S. Army soldiers were killed on the date Levy mentioned. It happened near the end of the Korean War on an island off the peninsula.

Following Levy’s remarks, Col. Lyle Drew took command of the wing from Col. Jeff King, who has served in the role for the past two years.

After the unit flag was exchanged, Drew spoke to the crowd of about 400 people, which included military members, civilian base employees and many community leaders from around Middle Georgia.

“This is a team sport, and how one goes, is how we all go,” Drew said. “I look forward to meeting you and your families and learning what you do to support the Team Robins mission.”

King is headed to the Pentagon to work for the deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering and force protection.

Drew previously was commander of the 49th Maintenance Group at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. He oversaw 700 people who maintain 12 MQ-1 Predators and the 27 MQ-9 Reapers, which are unmanned aircraft, as well as the F-16. He said the unit does the majority of air crew training for unmanned aircraft. He has served in the Air Force since 1995.

King is leaving a lasting influence on Robins. In his time here he helped coordinate an agreement with Georgia Power to build an 870-acre solar farm north of the base. It will be able to directly power the base during a grid power outage. He also helped coordinate the first landing of an unmanned aircraft at Robins, when a RQ-4 Global Hawk arrived at the base May 24 for a paint job. More Global Hawks are expected for similar work. He also guided the base through the aftermath of a tornado that caused $4.8 million in damage on the base.

“It has been an amazing journey,” King told the crowd. “It has truly been the highest honor of my career.

The 78th Air Base Wing commander also has the title of installation commander, a role often compared to that of the mayor of a city. While not the highest ranking person on base, the installation commander has wide influence and supports all of the units at Robins. The installation commander is in charge of buildings, roads, emergency services and security.

Wayne Crenshaw: 478-256-9725, @WayneCrenshaw1