As 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Christopher Sage prepares to hand over command of the wing July 3, he is looking fondly over his time as a part of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base leadership.

Speaking with reporters Friday, Sage said that having the chance to serve in Goldsboro has been a uniquely fulfilling experience.

"It's pretty amazing that they allow me to work with some of the most amazing people in the world and fly and operate some of the most amazing equipment in the world to take care of our nation's business," he said. "My family and I truly view it as a blessing, and truly as and honor to be able to serve in the capacity we've been able to serve in."

When Sage arrived at Seymour Johnson in June of 2016 to begin his command, it marked the third time he had been stationed at the base. He first came to the base in May 1996 as an F-15E student pilot with the 334th Fighter Squadron, and then again as an F-15E pilot from April 2004 to July 2007.

Sage said that "Team Seymour" has gotten a lot done since he arrived two years ago. Everything that Sage has done in that time frame has been for the ultimate goal of supporting Seymour Johnson's mission.

"Our mission is the most important thing we do here," he said. "The base would not be here without the mission, and that's to deploy dominant Strike Eagle air power any time, anywhere."

"So, how do we do that? That's our primary mission. The integral into that is taking care of our airmen and their families."

Without the airmen, the mission cannot be accomplished, Sage said, which makes programs which take care of them all the more important. Among those programs which Sage was most proud of is the Adopt-an-Airman program, through which 10 Goldsboro families have connected with new airmen on base to make them feel at home.

"It's a great way to connect our young airmen with families downtown," Sage said. "It's a way to connect those families with the mission at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. So, it's a win for both sides."

Connections with local leaders like Mayor Chuck Allen, Superintendent Michael Dunsmore, with Wayne County Public Schools, and Wayne County Board of Education Chairwoman Patricia Burden have made Sage's job much easier when it comes to connecting with the community.

Sage thanked the members of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs committee for helping bring base and community leaders together.

After he hands over command to Col. Donn Yates on July 3, Sage and his family will move on to his next assignment in Mons, Belgium. His new title is a mouthful, even by Air Force standards -- Sage is assigned to the U.S. European Command headquarters, in Mons, Belgium, where he will serve as senior special assistant to the commander and supreme allied commander Europe.

Sage said he is proud of what the base has done to help Wayne County Public Schools, and hopes to see the base make more headway in that regard. In the end, the major lesson for Sage has been that "a rising tide raises all boats," as he put it.

"I think what I've learned here is that you can't tackle these big challenges alone," Sage said. "So, it's what we've done together, and what we can do together in the future."

"It's been very exciting, and a wonderful experience to serve here at Seymour Johnson and the local community."