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There's a new man in charge of 722 Air Control Squadron

Friday, June 10, 2011   by: Kate Adams
Brigadier General Robert J. Beletic (far right) looks on as 22 Wing/CFB North Bay, Wing Commander Colonel Francois Malo (c) conduct the official sign off on the change of command for 722 Air Control Squadron (ACS) to Lieutenant Colonel Christopher A. Johnson (l) from Lieutenant Colonel Nikkila (r).

Once again this week emotions were raw at the ‘podium of tears’ as the second of three change of commands in the month of June took place at CFB North Bay.

On Thursday Lieutenant Colonel DeWayne A. Nikkila (USAF) relinquished his command of 722 Air Control Squadron (ACS) at 22 Wing/Canadian Forces Base (CFB) North Bay to Lieutenant Colonel Christopher A. Johnson.

Brigadier General Robert J. Beletic, Deputy Commander of the Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Region and Deputy Commander Force Employment, 1st Air Division, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada presided over the ceremony credited Nikkila for doing an outstanding job in the role of commander in what has been the busiest two years the unit has experienced.

Beletic rhymed off a list of missions that Nikkila’s squadron accomplished in two short years including the flooding in Manitoba and Quebec, wildfires in Saskatoon as well as the big ones the Vancouver Olympics and G8/G20 Summits. The Brigadier General also notes that while succeeding with the mission Nikkila continued to push and support the advancement of United States Air Force (USAF) staff at CFB North Bay.

He tells the audience that the USAF staff barely represents 1 percent of the First Air Force yet “They won 23 percent of the First Air Force awards.”

22 Wing Commander Colonel Francois Malo echoed Beletic’s praise of Nikkila stressing that CFB North Bay is the only joint task force at the tactical level in Canada.

“This organization has been that way for the last 50 years.”

“Americans and Canadians have worked side by side as one for that time period. We are equal on this wing regardless of your nationality. We are equal on our mission crews. We are equal and one in the Canadian Air Defence Sector.”

“Colonel Nikkila has fulfilled my expectation as a key leader in a 22 Wing commander.”

Going off script for a moment Nikkila was quick to point out that the success enjoyed by 722 Air Control Squadron was not down to him but down to the people that make up the squad.

“I am in awe of your Professionalism,” he said.

“I am proud of all of you.”

Thanking the community for their support and drawing laughter as he introduced French into his speech, which he agreed was the roughest part of his farewell, Nikkila summed up his tour in the Bay as the ‘Best assignment of my life.” Nikkila says he was fortunate enough to have a four year tour in the Bay having served two years as Director of Operations under Lieutenant Colonel David Johnson. He says he will miss the misty mornings on Trout Lake with intermittent calls of the loons and the occasional passing beavers as well as kayaking and canoeing.

“In all of our travels we have never received such genuine and authentic warmth.”

Reluctant to surrender his command, Nikkila says he has piece of mind knowing that his squad was going to be in the capable hands of Lieutenant Colonel Christopher A. Johnson.

“Savour every minute,” he said directly to Johnson.

“Thank you, Merci and Mahalo.”

Nikkila now heads to Camp Smith, Hawaii for what is known as a thaw out tour.

Johnson arrives fresh from Robins Air Force Base in Georgia where he was the Assistant Director of Operations and Instructor Mission Crew Commander.

Beletic says he too is confident the squadron is in good hands as Johnson beat out a slate of 400 candidates.

“I am confident our unit will continue to do well here,” he states.

“He was the right guy at the right time to advance the unit.”

Warning Johnson’s wife, Melanie, and two small children that soon they will be swimming in snow, Malo concurs that Johnson is the right person for the job and that he looks forward to serving with him even if for just on short week.

“”I have full trust in the American succession plan.”

“I look forward to your leadership.”

“Welcome aboard.”

Blessed and grateful is how the incoming commander described his feelings of taking over the 722 Air Control Squadron, Johnson says his whole career has been building to this command and he is ready to see it through.

“You have led them with integrity,” he tells Nikkila.

“I am going to keep on this steady course.”

Johnson says he will lead the USAF unit and the 722 Air Control Squadron with three guiding principles; Mission first, take care of our people and strong partnerships.

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