Promising 'Culture of Trust,' New Commander Takes Helm at Wright-Patterson

A sign at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
A sign at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. (NASA courtesy photo)

Assuming command of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Col. Dustin Richards promised Tuesday to establish a "culture of trust and mutual respect," one where base employees can reach their potential and "live their best life."

"For the men and women of the 88th Air Base Wing, the message is really just to continue delivering the excellence they have been delivering for so long," said Richards, the wing's 41st commander. "Keep up the mission."

Richards assumed command of the wing in a ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The event was designated an "assumption of command" rather than a "change of command." The wing's previous commander, Col. Christopher Meeker, was fired in December and did not participate in the ceremony. Interim commander Col. Travis Pond was on hand and led wing members in giving Richards his first salute.

Lt. Gen. Donna Shipton, commander of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center -- soon to be re-designated as the Air Force Air Dominance Systems Center or AFADSC -- presided over the ceremony.

Shipton described Richards as a "warrior-scholar," reading from one of Richards' performance reports, an evaluation that hailed him as an officer with a "bias for action with a commitment to airmen."

"We can't ask for more than that," Shipton said.

Richards will command one of the largest air base wings in the Air Force with more than 5,000 Air Force military, civilian and contractor employees.

The wing acts as the landlord and host organization to Wright-Patterson, an installation that is home to a major acquisition center, research and development laboratories, a major command headquarters, an airlift wing and the world's largest military air museum.

He takes command at a time when the Air Force is "reoptimizing" for competition with Russia and China.

"Each of you is in the arena, and you are in the arena at a critical juncture in our nation's history," Richards said in prepared remarks, speaking to an assembly at the museum.

With more than 35,000 employees, Wright-Patterson is the largest single-site concentration of employment in Ohio. In a fact sheet, the wing put its annual payroll at $3.3 billion, with a total economic impact of $6.5 billion.

Richards has served multiple tours at the Pentagon. Most recently, he was the senior military assistant to the assistant secretary of the Air Force (energy, installations and environment). He studied at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson from August 2003 to August 2005.

The former wing commander, Meeker, was relieved of command in December. No reason for the move was offered beyond standard military language attributing the decision to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead.

Since then, Meeker has been working as a special assistant to Shipton, who assumed command of Air Force Life Cycle Management Center in January.

It was Shipton who decided to remove Meeker. A spokesman for the 88th referred questions about Meeker's removal Tuesday to Air Force Materiel Command.

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