The more than hour-long session at the Museum of Aviation saw the installation of Brig. Gen. Cedric George as the first complex commander and the inactivation of the 402 Maintenance Wing, the industrial heart of the old Warner Robins Air Logistics Center.
The move – the most dramatic organizational change in the 70-year history of Robins -- is part of an Air Force Materiel Command restructuring that will reduce the agency’s centers from 12 to five, including the formation of similar air logistic complexes at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Command officials have said the changes will save $109 million per year, introduce greater efficiency and make the command more responsive to the needs of warfighters around the globe.
Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, AFMC commander, and Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, commander of the newly established Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker AFB, officiated the multi-phased ceremony at the museum’s Century of Flight Hangar.
Under the new structure, George and 78th Air Base Wing Commander Col. Mitch Butikofer will separately fall under Litchfield while the weapon system program managers on base will report to the newly established Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Robins lost 193 positions in the move as air logistics center and aerospace sustainment directorate staffs were eliminated along with the center’s two-star, major general command slot. Maj. Gen. Bob McMahon held that position until his June 15 retirement.
AFMC officials said they expected initial operational capability of the new structure by Oct. 1 and full operational capability by the middle of 2013.
Wolfenbarger said the redesignation maintains Warner Robins’ heritage of world class support for combatant units.
“The (Warner Robins Air Logistics Center) has a profound history of service that has benefitted the Air Force and our nation,” she told the museum audience.
She praised the selection of George for the local command position.
“Rest assured,” the general told the Tuesday morning crowd, “Gen. George is very capable and ready to lead. He brings a wealth of experience.”
Litchfield reflected on his days as a second lieutenant at Robins in the early 1980s. He said his colonel gave him a set of colonel insignia and told him some day I would need them.
“So it’s wonderful to be back in Warner Robins,” Litchfield said. “I believe the base has a rich horizon filled with great opportunity.”
He said the AFMC restructuring had required a planning effort of epic proportions.
“And we still have more to do as we march to (initial operational capability) on 1 Oct,” he said. “But the easy part is almost done and we will be shifting from planning to the heavy lifting of program execution.”
He said organizational names change but the mission does not. “We must not only meet Air Force expectations, we must thrive,” Litchfield stressed. “Before and after this ceremony, Warner Robins has a dedicated workforce and the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex will thrive with dedicated teamwork both inside and outside the base.”
He said he had served with George on several occasions.
“He’s more than ready to lead in this challenging environment,” Litchfield told the museum crowd. “He has credibility with the operational Air Force and he’s also a man of faith with a strong devotion to his family. I look forward to supporting all the accomplishments that will come with Cedric at Warner Robins.”
George briefly addressed the museum audience following assumption of command. He said it was easy to get consumed by the moment and forget the men and women who are in harm’s way.
“They expect us to deliver combat effective airpower with no gaps in our commitment,” he said. “They expect us to get better and we have to get better.”
He praised the warm community welcome he, his wife Liz and daughters have received since they arrived on Monday.
“This community bleeds red, white and blue,” he said. “It’s deeply patriotic. They’re hard working and have a warm heart. All of that sounds good to me, Liz and the girls. We look forward to becoming part of the family and continue the great work that has happened at Warner Robins.”
George comes from Tinker Air Force Base where he commanded the 76th Maintenance Wing, a unit similar in size and scope to the 402nd at Robins. He entered the Air Force in 1987 after graduating from Norwich University in Vermont.
His extensive maintenance background includes the command of a squadron, group and two wings before taking on the logistics complex position. His father was an Army First Sergeant and he was born at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Col. Even Miller, who was acting Warner Robins Air Logistics Center commander and commander of the now inactivated 402nd Maintenance Wing, said the local realignment must be viewed in terms of history to fully see the future.
“The air logistics center name has changed ten times over the years and the latest change is just a new horizon,” he told the museum attendees. “I believe the men and women of the 402nd will carry the day and set the bar higher than anyone else.”
Miller challenged the local workforce to make what they do better, embrace the change and let their performance focus on support for the warfighter.
“They need us to get better every day,” he said.
Miller is being reassigned to the Pentagon.