07/15/07 — Linsenmeyer to lead 916th Wing

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Linsenmeyer to lead 916th Wing

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 15, 2007 2:02 AM

As Col. Paul Sykes received his final salute from the men and women of the 916th Air Refueling Wing Saturday morning on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, he smiled.

A formal ceremony made it official -- Sykes relinquished command of the wing, passing the flag to Col. Stephen "Fritz" Linsenmeyer.

Leadership from Team Seymour, the 4th Air Force and the Goldsboro and Wayne County communities were on hand for Sykes' final address to those who have been under his charge for the past three years.

"I really just want to say 'Thank you,'" Sykes said. "It's been a terrific ride."

He recognized those he has worked with and those in the audience -- Goldsboro Mayor Al King, Seymour Support Council Chairman Troy Pate, 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Steve Kwast and others.

But when it came time to honor airmen from the 916th, the newly-retired commander choked up.

"It really has been an honor to work side by side with the great men and women of the 916th," he said. "You have got so much to be proud of."

During his tenure at Seymour, Sykes has seen his wing support missions overseas, fuel the F-15E Strike Eagles that made a pass over the funeral of former President Gerald Ford and win the Outstanding Unit Award.

And for him, the sacrifices made by those men and women, the volunteers that make up the wing, have been special ones -- ones he will not soon forget.

"You're a volunteer. (The nation) can't buy that because it comes from the heart," Sykes said. "You mean everything to the people of this nation."

Before he passed the flag, the commander was decorated with the Legion of Merit by 4th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Robert Duignan who characterized Sykes as a man who "stood up and answered the call."

Linsenmeyer comes to Seymour from Grissom Air Force Base, Ind., where he served as Operations Group Commander for the 434th Air Refueling Wing.

The colonel, who is expected to begin work July 27, said he was grateful to have received such a warm welcome.

"The support has been outstanding," Linsenmeyer said to those officials on hand. "I look forward to partnering with you."

A command pilot with more than 3,800 hours in the air, Linsenmeyer said he hopes the wing will continue to set an example of excellence.

During his 26-plus years in the Air Force, Linsenmeyer has flown the T-41, T-37, T-38, B-52G/H, KC-10A and the KC-135R Stratotanker.

He has earned several awards and decorations, including the National Defense Service Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal with two devices, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with three oak leaf clusters.