MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
In front of the assembled wing, Col. Nicholas Gentile Jr. handed the reins of the 169th Fighter Wing to the vice wing commander, Col. Akshai Gandhi, June 23.
The change of command ceremony was presided over by the Adjutant General of South Carolina, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston.
Livingston lauded the accomplishments of the SCANG and Gentile’s leadership over the past couple of years, thanking him for the hard work he’s done to keep the wing combat ready and prepared for future missions.
“This organization has evolved and I’m very proud of what the Swamp Foxes have done,” said Livingston. “You have continued to fly one of the most advanced jets in the world. But you’ve flown it under increasingly difficult and varying challenges.”
Gentile, who has served as the wing commander since May 14, 2016, was also promoted to the rank of brigadier general in a ceremony Sunday afternoon, presided by Lt. Gen. R. Scott Williams, commander of 1st Air Force and commander of Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region. Gentile has more than 3,000 flight hours and has flown 108 combat sorties, totaling 440 combat hours in six contingencies around the globe.
“Let me start by saying ‘thank-you’ to the outstanding Airmen of the 169th Fighter Wing. Your hard work and dedication to ensure the Swamp Fox remains out front as the best fighter and SEAD wing in the Air Force is unparalleled and inspiring,” said Gentile. “I have truly enjoyed serving with you and having the opportunity of a lifetime to represent this wing all over the nation and world.”
With his promotion to brigadier general, Gentile will take on a new leadership role, to be announced later, with the Air National Guard Readiness Center at Joint Base Andrews, Md.
During his tenure, first as the vice wing commander and then the wing commander, Gentile led Swamp Fox Airmen through a number of historic events. These included Full Spectrum Readiness and an AEF deployment this year, the 2016 four-month Theater Security Package deployment to Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron’s 2016 deployment to Iraq, back-to-back domestic operation responses to Hurricanes Maria and Matthew in 2017 and 2016 respectfully and the historic flooding in 2015. All this was completed while posturing the wing for future missions here at McEntire JNGB.
“Col. Gentile, job well done,” continued Livingston. “You and your Airmen have risen to the challenges. We’ve had some tough things happen. But your people always picked it up, took it that next step and did the right thing. You are always prepared.”
Taking command of the 169FW is a career F-16 pilot who has served in various leadership roles within the South Carolina Air National Guard and National Guard Bureau.
“Somehow the right quality shows up at the right time and Abu [Col. Gandhi] is that person,” said Livingston. “He’s going to take this unit to head across the water again. And what I expect and what I know will happen is you once again will rise to that challenge and will continue to be the best fighter wing, not in just the U.S. Air Force but in the world.”
Gandhi has more than 4,500 flight hours, including 600 hours in combat. Prior to becoming vice wing commander in May 2016, he was the 157th Fighter Squadron commander for three years where he led the squadron through 15 deployments to four continents.
“Col. Gentile, you are leaving the wing in fantastic shape,” said Gandhi. “To the Swamp Foxes, it’s been my great pleasure serving with you for many years. We have traveled the world together in the service of our great nation. We have worked hard here in the state to take care of our citizens. As we continue to prepare once more onto the breach, know that my job here is to have your back and the backs of your family.”
In a ceremony earlier on Saturday, June 23, Lt. Col. Michael Dunkin was promoted to the rank of colonel.
Dunkin also accepted command as the vice wing commander. He was the 169th Comptroller Flight commander and the wing comptroller from January 2014 to June 2018 and commanded the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron prior to that.
“This wing will forever be strong and forever serve the people of South Carolina as long as we have the great people of South Carolina coming through this wing and doing the things that you have always done,” concluded Livingston.
The 169th Fighter Wing provides combatant commanders with world-class combat capability to meet our nation’s needs for contingency and general war requirements. The 169th’s federal mission is accomplished by employing conventional munitions in the Destruction/Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (DEAD/SEAD), while providing 24/7 homeland defense alert fighter response. Additionally, the wing provides the Governor of South Carolina with defense assistance to the state’s homeland security office and disaster preparation and response support for Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) activities.