BANGOR, Maine — With a brief exchange of flags Sunday afternoon, the Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing welcomed a new commander.
Col. John L. D’Errico took over from Brig. Gen. Stephen Atkinson, who spent four years in command of the KC-135 air refueling wing and now assumes the position of chief of staff at Maine Air National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Augusta.
“Stephen, you never failed me in your judgments and you never failed me in your candor. For that I’ll be eternally grateful,” said Maj. Gen. John Libby, the head of the Maine Air National Guard. “John … I expect the same from you. I expect candor, I expect honesty, I expect good judgments, I expect you to make judgments that are best for the organizations.”
Col. Gerry Bolduc was installed in D’Errico’s former post as vice commander during the ceremony, which was held in front of more than 600 military and about 100 invited guests in the maintenance fuel cell hangar.
The ceremony itself was quick and simple, as Atkinson handed over the 101st flag to Libby, who handed it a minute later to D’Errico to symbolically indicate the shift of control.
However, the past two years have been anything but simple, Libby said.
“What’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan has created the greatest operational tempo we’ve seen since World War II,” he said. “Steve was the wing commander as we’ve built up to and sustained that in the past few years. John inherits that at the peak. The good news is he was the vice commander and had the opportunity to watch Steve handle it. He’s been mentored very well.”
Speaking briefly for the first time as commander, D’Errico thanked his father, former Air Force navigator and current Bangor City Councilor Peter D’Errico, for inspiring him to fly.
Atkinson and D’Errico were awarded meritorious service medals before the ceremony.
D’Errico, who Libby said was picked for the command position from several people interviewed, enlisted in the Maine Air National Guard in 1978. He also has served as operations officer and commander with the 132nd Air Refueling Squadron and commander of the 101st Operations Group.
He flew more than 50 combat missions in Iraq, more than 100 combat air patrol missions in support of Operation Noble Eagle, and has logged more than 10,000 flight hours in the KC-135 refueling aircraft.