TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, FL, UNITED STATES
ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida (Jan. 7, 2017) -- Col. Michael Valle assumed command of the 101st Air and Space Operations Group during a change-of-command ceremony on Tyndall Air Force Base Jan. 5. Valle previously served as the combat operations division chief for the 101st AOG. In his acceptance speech, Valle said he was extremely humbled and honored to have the opportunity to lead this organization.
“There are some words that I take very seriously and try to live my life so to bring honor to those words every day: husband, father, brother, friend,” Valle said. “Today, I’ll add commander to that list.”
Valle’s predecessor, Col. Brian Johnson, relinquished command with the traditional passing of the colors. During the ceremony, Johnson surrendered the 101st AOG flag to Valle, signifying his acceptance of the new position and assumption of command.
Along with the flag, Johnson offered the incoming commander a few words of wisdom. He warned that the commander’s chair brings with it situations and challenges that seem daunting. However, he assured Valle that the men and women of the 101st would keep the new commander out of trouble.
“Moving away from the operational side of the [Air and Space Operations Center] to the support side brings you closer to those who support our missions,” Johnson said. “However, the good news is you have a tremendously talented and experienced group of people supporting you.”
Johnson, having served more than 25 decorated years between active duty Air Force and the Air National Guard, retired later that same day. The ceremony was held at the Heritage Club on Tyndall AFB.
The 101st AOG plays a unique role not only in the Florida Air National Guard but also in the overall defense of the continental United States.
According to the official fact sheet, “The Florida Air National Guard's 101st Air and Space Operations Group (AOG) provides the preponderance of human resources in direct support of the 601st AOC. As the backbone of America's AOC, Title 32 Guardsmen and women of the 101st AOG are responsible for the detection, deterrence, defense against airborne threats to the citizens of the United States and its critical infrastructure, and provide defense support to federal, state and local authorities during natural and man-made disasters.”
The 601st Air Operations Center is an active duty mission that operates 24 hours a day, 356 days a year to continuously monitor all domestic air and space travel and provide intelligence to both the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command and the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM).
The unit works closely with the Federal Aviation Administration, which controls all air traffic across the United States. Any aircraft entering U.S. airspace must fly according to the rules and restrictions of the FAA. When they don’t, the FAA contacts the 601st AOC.
“Anytime anything starts to become suspect, or if somebody asks us to investigate, we’ll start to launch aircraft up to investigate the situation,” said Col. John Ferry, commander of the 601st AOC.
Instances that warrant an investigation include pilots not responding to FAA radio calls, deviation from flight plans and general suspicious activity. Once an investigation is requested, the request is passed to military authorities who order an alert response. Once alerted, military aircraft can be in the sky in minutes.
The 601st also provides support for homeland security and civil support missions, such as fighting wildfires and providing protection for national special security events including two Super Bowls, two State of the Union Addresses, Republican and Democratic National Conventions and a visit from the Pope.
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This work, The Backbone of America’s AOC Changes Command, by MSgt William Buchanan, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.