05/02/04 — Sykes takes command of 916th Wing

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Sykes takes command of 916th Wing

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on May 2, 2004 8:15 AM

Col. Paul J. Sykes had spent 29 years in Charleston, S.C., and now he has a new home in Goldsboro at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Sykes assumed command of the 916th Air Refueling Wing on Saturday from Col. Ronald A. Rutland in a ceremony before Brig. Gen. Rick Rosborg, the 4th Fighter Wing commander, 916th members, other Air Force officials and community leaders.

"We're looking forward to making Seymour Johnson our home," Sykes said. "We spent 29 years at Charleston. It was tough to get me out of there, but it will be tough to get me out of here. I can't wait to get in an airplane and fly."

Sykes had been deputy commander of the 315th Operations Group at Charleston Air Force Base.

Rutland was to assume command of the 512th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

"We're losing one of the best," said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Duignan, the 4th Air Force commander. Col. Rutland "is a tough guy to replace, but I know Paul will do a great job."

Rutland called the 916th the world's best fighter wing and said he was proud to be a part of Seymour Johnson for 15 months. He said he considered the wing members to be heroes and the community leaders to be friends.

"Seymour Johnson is Seymour Johnson because of the community," he said. "We're a family because we work together. I'm leaving home -- that's how I feel today."

Rutland said he was going to a bigger, but not necessarily better unit.

"You did your mission with honor and pride, and you let me be a part of it," Rutland said to the 916th. "I'm a better man ƒ because I was a part of you and what you gave me. You epitomized professionalism, honor, courage and service before self and excelled in all that you do. That's the 916th. With great pleasure, I was part of the 916th."

Gen. Duignan called the work of the 916th "absolutely outstanding" in playing a big role in two mobilizations in the Middle East during Operations Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

"All of us who wear the uniform," Duignan said, "never anticipated we'd be in the situation we are in. It looks like it will last for a while. ƒ All of you are volunteers. My hat is off to all of you."

He commended Col. Rutland for his leadership and noted that the 916th was one wing where he has no worries.

Then he repeated a quote about leadership:

"Leadership is not making all the decisions, but leadership is ensuring that the right people are making the decisions. Ron has done that."

As the ceremony ended, Rutland made a final inspection of the wing with Sykes.