With all of its squadrons standing in revue on the parade deck at Vandenberg Air Force Base, the command guidon-or symbolic unit flag-of the U.S. Air Force’s 30th Space Wing was passed from Colonel Steve Tanous to the Wing’s new commander, Colonel David Buck, on Friday, June 27. The change of command was officiated by Lieutenant General William Shelton, commander of the 14th Air Force, of which the 30th Space Wing is a component. Although Tanous has only been at the helm of the 30th Space Wing-the main element at Vandenberg Air Force Base-for a year, this relatively short time has seen a lot of positive change on base. Tanous enjoyed a high degree of success during his command, with 11 successful launches, a successful scripted test launch of one of the Missile Defense Agency’s interceptor missiles, 540 deployed airmen, and the initiation of a housing privatization program. “We’re the most deployed base in the [space] command, and we help ensure success in our nation’s war on terror,” said Tanous in his farewell speech. Known for his personable and effective leadership style, he was specifically requested to be the new commander of the Squadron Officer School-the school at which all junior officers are trained-at Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
Once he had accepted the guidon, Buck faced the units on display, and as the former commander took his leave, received his first official salute from the men and women of the Wing. “In the space business, all roads lead to Vandenberg, and there’s no place like home,” said Buck, a career space and missile officer who served at Vandenberg in the early ’90s. Buck thanked community leaders-including county supervisors Brooks Firestone and Joni Gray-for their attendance and support, and noted that Vandenberg enjoys a very involved and helpful surrounding community. Thanking Tanous and his wife, Liz, for leaving the base better than they found it, Buck also called upon his new team to continue their hard work. “You are one of the greatest teams in the world, but this is no time to rest on laurels. There are too many rockets to launch, too many deployments to fill, and 95,000 acres to maintain.”
In the wake of the forced resignations last month of Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael Moseley, all three of the commanders speaking at the change of command pointed out that attention to detail is paramount in the Air Force. The two top level Air Force leaders were pushed out of office by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates early in June due to what were termed systemic problems found by an inquiry into the way the Air Force was handling its nuclear arsenal. Gates maintained that physical security of all parts of the nuclear arsenal is of utmost importance, and that this wasn’t happening under the watch of the two deposed kingpins. “Every person in the 14th Air Force should strive to do the best they can do every day,” said Shelton. “Concentrating on perfection isn’t just for nukes.” This is especially poignant to a unit that handles testing the delivery vehicles-Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles-for the nuclear weapons branch of the Air Force-the 20th Air Force. Four times per year, parts from the three bases with nuclear-tipped ICBMs on standby-Minot AFB, North Dakota, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming-are shipped to Vandenberg, assembled, and launched to ensure that all systems and components are functioning correctly. The missions of the 14th and 20th Air Forces are closely tied and require a certain amount of collaboration between the two.