Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD Changes stipulated by the latest Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list released by the Department of Defense have begun to take shape at Barnes Air National Guard Base.
In a ceremony earlier this month Lt. Col. Kenneth Lambrich officially became commander of the 104th Operations Group and also made history by becoming the first pilot from the 102nd Fighter Wing to acquire a command post in the 104th Fighter Wing.
His extensive experience as an F-15 pilot, with over 3,000 hours of flight experience, is why Lambrich was chosen to lead the wing's transition to its new mission of homeland defense.
According to Capt. Matthew Mutti, wing executive staff officer, Barnes was chosen as the new home for over a dozen F-15s, approximately 35 pilots and the as the primary defense location for the northeast United States because of its strategic location between Boston and New York City.
Mutti explained that approximately 20 pilots stationed at Barnes have already transitioned from flying A-10s to F-15s through a four-month training program. He added that 15 additional pilots have been relocated to Barnes from Otis Air National Guard Base in Falmouth, Mass.
However, Lambrich explained that in the wake of the fleet-wide grounding of the F-15s late last year due to the crash of an F-15 as it broke apart from structural failure during a training exercise over Missouri F-15 pilots at Barnes have still been unable to fly their first training mission.
Lambrich added, however, that he is anticipating the first F-15 flight training to take place within the next two weeks.
"That was an unplanned bump in the road," he said of the grounding, adding that the pilots have been in the process of being re-qualified.
Lambrich said he is confident in each pilot's transition from the A-10 to the F-15 as well as the wing's transition to their new mission. He explained that he believes that his extensive experience will "set the tone" and "serve as a benchmark for the mission's direction."
Barnes has experienced additional command changes this year including newly appointed Vice Wing Commander Lt. Col. James Keefe, with Lt. Col. Thomas Kelly taking command of the 131st Fighter Squadron and Lt. Col. Emmanuel Saridakis now the commander of the 104th Operations Support Flight.
"This transition in leadership is important to the viability of our wing and our success in our new mission," Keefe said.
Lambrich said he will be working assiduously to ensure the efficiency of the wing, minimize the possible risks and ensure the safety of all personnel.
Lambrich, who has relocated to Barnes after serving approximately 10 years at Otis, said he is overwhelmed by the decision to make him commander of the Operations Group.
"This is a world-class organization and group of warriors," he said. "The people in this organization are true live heroes and I feel extremely fortunate to join them and doubly honored to lead them."