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911th Airlift Wing gets new leader

| Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, 2:16 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Major General Stayce D. Harris, commander, 22nd Air Force symbolically hands the command of the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon to Col. Jeffrey A. VanDootingh during the change of Command ceremony on Sunday August 3, 2014.
Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
The new Wing Commander, Col. Jeffrey A. VanDootingh , speaks onstage during the change of Command ceremony on Sunday August 3, 2014.
Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Major General Stayce D. Harris, commander, 22nd Air Force stands with departing commander, Col. Craig C. Peters at the 911th Airlift Wing for assumption of the new Wing Commander, Col. Jeffrey A. VanDootingh (facing) during the change of Command ceremony on Sunday August 3, 2014.

Air Force reservists bade farewell to the man who helped rescue the 911th Airlift Wing from closure two years ago and welcomed aboard a new commander on Sunday.

During a ceremony at the base in Moon, Air Force officials credited Col. Craig Peters with improving overall operations while fighting to keep the base open as federal spending cuts threatened it.

The station overcame significant “headwinds” during that time, Peters said, though he cautioned reservists not to become complacent.

“Change is here, and you've got to embrace change,” he told reservists during a nearly hourlong ceremony.

Peters is leaving the 911th after a little more than two years to take up a position as joint staff in the Pentagon's Global Policy and Partnerships Division.

He handed the reins of the 911th to Col. Jeffrey Van Dootingh, who most recently led the Air Force Reserve's programs division at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.

When Peters arrived at the 911th in May 2012, the base was being considered as part of military cost cuts as the federal government aimed to reduce Defense spending by $450 billion over 10 years.

Peters worked with elected officials to keep the 911th open as he set an ambitious agenda for more than 1,200 reservists and 500 civilian employees.

The 911th safely flew 5,135 hours of missions during his command and improved the efficiency of operations, reducing energy usage by 29 percent and water usage by 35 percent, officials said.

Reservist Ian Lowe said Peters is an inspiring leader who is leaving the base stronger than when he arrived.

“From day one, he was very open and forward with us about the fact that this base had a critical role in the overall mission of the Air Force and that he would work tirelessly to do whatever he could to keep it open,” said Lowe of Bethlehem.

Maj. Gen. Stayce Harris, commander of the 22nd Air Force, said she expects Pittsburgh's base will continue to adapt to changing military needs and perhaps take on new roles, including “cyber missions.”

Van Dootingh said he hoped to build on Peters' efforts in supporting the reservists.

“What I never forget is that everyone here is a volunteer,” Van Dootingh said after the ceremony. “I just want to work for them and give them every opportunity to serve their country.”

Chris Fleisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or cfleisher@tribweb.com.

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