Team Edwards filled Hangar 1600 to witness the historic passing of the Air Force Flight Test Center guideon from one commander to another during a change of command ceremony June 19.
Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, Commander of Air Force Materiel Command, presided over the ceremony in which outgoing AFFTC commander Brig. Gen. Robert C. Nolan II relinquished command to Brig. Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr.
Addressing the more than 500 people in attendance, Wolfenbarger took the time to not only commend the accomplishments of General Nolan but the accomplishments of the Air Force Flight Test Center.
“It is truly my pleasure to be here this morning. As we pass the reins of command responsibility from one commander to another, I thought it was important to spend some time talking about the significant mission of the Air Force flight Test Center,” said Wolfenbarger. “What we accomplish here has been and will continue to be so very important to our warfighters both in today’s fight and in future fights.”
“Every aircraft in our United States Air Force inventory since World War II has come through this unit for flight tests and when you add to that, the numerous other areas of test and evaluation performed here, it becomes very clear why we have such a great appreciation for the significant mission of the flight test center,” added Wolfenbarger.
“As we move to our purpose today, which is the change of command, it is really is an opportunity to do two things – one is to say thank you to our outgoing commander, General Nolan, and the second is to welcome General Bunch to his new home and the new responsibilities as a flight test center commander.”
Before proceeding with the change of command, Nolan was presented with a distinguished service medal in which he later took the time to address the center for a final time.
“Friends and family of Team Edwards, there are 115 men and women from Edwards Air Force Base serving in the Central Command area of responsibility, so I would like to dedicate my remarks to their service, to the sacrifice of their families, and for their safe return. After 33 years in uniform, 29 years of commissioned service and 10 years of command experience, I can offer some profound words of wisdom, but I’ve decided to use my few remaining minutes in command to simply say, ‘thank you,’” said Nolan. “I thank you for your expertise and for your patriotism. I am proud of you and proud to have served as the commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center. I wish each and every one of you all the best.”
After Nolan’s closing remarks and the AFFTC guideon was passed from one commander to another, Bunch expressed his thoughts about what it meant to be a part of the Team Edwards mission once again.
“When I initially got the call, I thought of the long history of firsts that are the tradition and history of Edwards Air Force Base, and I wondered what we will experience during my stint here as your commander and what we will do as a team of firsts,” Bunch said. “I also reflected on the caliber of the officers who have served in this position and the leadership they have demonstrated daily as they led this great organization. They were tremendous and great leaders who set a great example for everyone every day. My commitment is to work hard and to live up to that standard of excellence that they’ve already established. The latest in that lineage of great leaders is General Nolan and the whole family. You have poured heart and soul into this center and have done a remarkable job.”
“To the men and women of the AFFTC, we are excited, thrilled, elated to get the opportunity to work with and for you as the AFFTC commander. We are extremely happy to be back at Edwards and back in the test community,” added Bunch. “General Wolfenbarger and General Nolan spoke about the mission so I’m not going to talk about that a whole lot, other than to say that it’s a critical mission and you only do that with world-class testers, world-class installation support and a world-class center staff and I know through my years of experience here that all of those things are here and we’re going to be very successful.”
Before nearing his closing remarks, Bunch briefly commented upon the future of Team Edwards and the Air Force Flight Test Center.
“As I step into this job, we are sailing in waters we have not traversed in a while or some that are actually uncharted. All of the Department of Defense is under physical pressure and that pressure is hitting all aspects of the center mission. We’re also entering the transition phase of AFMC’s five-center reorganization,” said Bunch. “This reorganization has multiple facets, but for the test and evaluation enterprise, it aligns all of AFMC’s test mission under the soon-to-be, stood-up Air Force Test Center.”
“There are multiple test programs that are undergoing programmatic questions and pushes,” he continued. “Those items and others are causing a lot of concern for some people that are out there, but together we will tackle those and any other challenges that come forward. I am humbled to get the opportunity to work with this team of professionals and look forward to working with our community partners.”
Bunch came to Edwards from his previous assignment as Commander of the Air Force Security Assistance Center, the agency charged with promoting security assistance and national security objectives by building relationships with U.S. international partners. As commander there, Bunch developed and executed international agreements and managed the command’s international affairs and all foreign disclosure policies.