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4th Fighter Wing change of command scheduled for June

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 8, 2012 1:50 AM

If everything goes according to plan, the 4th Fighter Wing will add a page to its storied history in less than two months, as Col. Patrick Doherty is expected to officially relinquish command to the first woman to ever hold Seymour Johnson Air Force Base's top post.

Air Force officials confirmed this week that Col. Jeannie Leavitt, the branch's first female fighter pilot, is scheduled to take the guidon during a June 1 ceremony.

And while it remains unclear just what Doherty's next assignment will be, it seems certain that he will leave a lasting impact on the men and women he has led since April 2010.

During his tenure, the colonel has seen his airmen earn dozens of awards -- most notably, the inaugural Air Force Historical Foundation Doolittle Award -- and watched as thousands of them, and the wing's fleet of F-15E Strike Eagles, deployed to -- and returned from -- Afghanistan and beyond.

And he has welcomed distinguished visitors to the base, offered guidance to local military advocates and participated in events outside the installation gates, from the dedication of Wayne County's war dead memorial to Veterans Day parades.

But Doherty contends that serving as commander of the wing he once trained in has never really been about himself -- that the plaques and trophies mean little when compared with the mission of setting up the next generation of airmen for success.

"Awards are nice, but at this point in our career ... that's really not the important thing. The important thing is making sure people are successful -- that they're reaching their potential," the colonel said a few months ago. "The awards are rewards, but in my mind, the real honor is making sure (the airmen) are trained -- firing them up and letting them know how important (they are)."

Leavitt, a former 333rd Fighter Squadron commander, is currently stationed at the Pentagon and had a similar explanation for what being 4th Fighter Wing commander really means.

"This assignment is not about me at all," she said, not long after she learned she would soon return to the base where she served as commander of the 333rd Fighter Squadron. "It's about the men and women of the 4th Fighter Wing."