Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

TOP STORY > >Group gets new commander

Leader executive editor

“Sir, I relinquish command.”

“Sir, I assume command.”

With those words, Col. Rudolph Byrne, 314th Operations Group commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, relinquished command to Col. Patrick Mordente in a-change-of-command ceremony Tuesday at Little Rock Air Force Base.

The operations group provides C-130 training to the Air Force, along with support missions around the world.

Brig. Gen. Rowayne A. Schatz, Jr., commander of the base’s 314th Airlift Wing, was the officiating officer.

“We’ve seen many welcomes. None could match the heartwarming welcome when we arrived at Little Rock Air Force Base,” Mordente told the assembled group of family, military and local officials who attended the change of command.

“When I first became a pilot, I learned two things — all roads lead to Little Rock, and Little Rock Air Force Base is home to tactical airlift,” the new commander said.

“I realize the importance of responsibilities and duties of the position I’ve been appointed to. It is an honor to be here with you,” Mordente told the group.

Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim and Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams were on hand for the ceremony, which included the presentation of colors, the National Anthem and awards presentation to Byrne.

Of Mordente, Gen. Schatz said, “He is the right person at the right time. He is a tremendous officer and tremendous leader and is stepping into some very big shoes.”

Of the departing Byrne, Schatz said, “A lot of accomplishments of the wing, Rudy had a large part in. He led the charge to modernize the C-130 training syllabus, and under Col. Byrne, more than 3,600 students have graduated at a 98 percent on-time rate.”

The departing commander said, “I am thankful to (former wing commander) Gen. (Kip) Self for hiring me and thankful to Gen. Schatz for keeping me. When we talk about the accomplishments of Little Rock Air Force Base, they were a team effort and I thank every one of you. Remember our fellow airmen, many of whom trained here, as they fight the Global War on Terror.”

A command pilot with more than 2,500 hours in T-37 and C-130 aircraft, Mordente comes to Little Rock Air Force Base from the Pentagon, where he served on the joint staff as branch chief for strategy integration and analysis and joint specialty officer.

His many awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal.

This is Mordente’s second assignment to LRAFB.

After his graduation from the Air Force Academy with a degree in engineering mechanics, he attended pilot training at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., and stayed on as an instructor pilot. From there it was on to Rhein Main and Ramstein air bases in Germany where he participated in Operations Provide Promise, Provide Comfort and Provide Transition as an aircraft commander in the C-130 weapons system. From there he was assigned to the 62nd AS at Little Rock as a formal training unit instructor.

He later attended the Army’s Command and General Staff College after which he was assigned to Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., where he served as a deployment analyst and an aide de camp for the deputy commander in chief of the Joint Forces Command.

He and his wife, Marissa, have two children, Cauthen and Catherine.

Byrne leaves to become chief of staff, George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. He will also serve as the military commander for all the Marshall Center U.S. military personnel.

The Marshall Center’s mission is to create a more stable security environment by advancing democratic defense institutions and relationships; promoting active, peaceful engagement, and enhancing enduring partnerships among the nations of America, Europe and Eurasia.

Byrne is a command pilot with more than 3,000 hours in various military aircraft. He has received many awards including the Defense Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster.

He deployed in support of operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Provide Comfort while serving as a C-130 pilot and instructor pilot at Rhein Main Air Base in Germany.

He completed his assignment there as the chief, airlift and deployment inspections, U.S. Air Forces in Europe office of the inspector general at Ramstein Air Base.

Byrne and his wife, Laurie, have four children, Jillian, Christopher, Timothy and Kaleigh.

The 314th Ops Group is composed of four flying squadrons, the 48th, 53rd and 62nd Airlift Squadrons which fly training missions in C-130E Hercules and the 48th Airlift Squadron which flies the C-130J; one support squadron, the 314th Operations Support Squadron, and one training squadron, the 714th Training Squadron.

The fourth flying squadron, the 45th Airlift Squadron, is a tenant unit at Keesler Air Force Base teaching pilots to fly the C-21A, a twin turbofan engine aircraft used for cargo and passenger airlift which is particularly helpful in medical evacuations.

The 314th Operations Group is comprised of 440 personnel employing C-130E, C-130J and C-21 aircraft. The group trains 2,000 students each year from all Department of Defense services and 31 countries. The group flies an annual 24,100 hours with an operating budget of $2.2 million.