NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The Nevada Test and Training Range welcomed a new commander during a change of command ceremony here July 18.
During the ceremony, Col. Stephen A. Langford, former NTTR commander, relinquished command of the NTTR and all of its assets to Col. Thomas E. Dempsey III.
The presiding officer of the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander, extended a warm welcome to all in attendance before speaking about the NTTR’s prestigious lineage.
“The NTTR as we know it has really only been around for about three years, but the organization itself came about from the 98th Range Wing, and before that, it had a rich history as the 98th Bombardment Group,” Silveria said. “It’s famous not only during World War II for the 417 combat missions it flew, but it’s famous for a particularly dangerous mission of a low-level bombing raid of the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. To this day, the NTTR is still responsible for conducting that kind of high-intensity combat in its battle space.”
Silveria then discussed the NTTR’s core responsibilities, which includes providing a flexible, realistic and multidimensional battle-space to conduct testing, training and tactics development.
“Everyone loves these numbers right: three million acres of heavily instrumented land across Southern Nevada and 12,000 square miles of airspace,” Silveria said. “It’s a place that not just the Air Force trains but coalition forces and our sister services train and prepare for combat, and they contribute the success they have to training they did in the NTTR.”
The general then spoke about how integral Langford was to the NTTR’s success over the past 18 months.
“He led the development of the strategic vision for 2023 and beyond. His threat focus, masterful oversight of this effort articulated the needs of the range out to those years’ requirements for range systems, targets, instrumentation, and infrastructure needed to take us well into the future,” Silveria said. “He led the successful integration of the space test and training range into the NTTR, which is vital for us to promote the integration of all of our domains – the air, space and cyber space – into our test and training missions, and we will reap the benefits of that for years to come. You’ve made substantial and lasting improvements that we’re going to enjoy and you’ve truly made a difference.”
The USAFWC commander then welcomed Dempsey, who comes to the NTTR from Joint Staff J-7, Suffolk, Va., where he served as the operations officer and plans observer/trainer of the Deployable Training Division.
“He certainly knows the training business very well and brings a wealth of tactical operational experience,” Silveria said of Dempsey. “Now I know you’re honored to be back at Nellis, because Second Lt. Dempsey showed up here in 1992 as part of the 554th Range Squadron as a radar and instrumentation engineer. I think that’s outstanding.”
At the conclusion of Silveria’s speech, Langford stepped forward to receive the Legion of Merit award for his tenure as commander.
After thanking his family, local community members, fellow wing commanders and leadership, Langford thanked the men and women that operate the NTTR.
“For years I was a user of the NTTR, and I bombed the ranges, reacted to all the threat emitters, talked to all the controlling agencies I needed to, came back and landed… I didn’t understand the complexity and the importance of this range to our war fighters,” Langford said. “We do, not only testing on the range, but also advanced training, and tactics and development – three things that no other range in the world does. That’s why it has been labeled as the crown jewel of ranges in the Air Force, and that’s all because of the people in the NTTR… To all of you, I say thank you.”
After Langford’s speech, he relinquished command to Silveria. Upon assuming command and the NTTR guidon from the USAFWC commander, Dempsey shared his feelings with all in attendance.
“For me it’s quite an honor and privilege,” the new NTTR commander said, who in addition to serving as a radar and instrumentation engineer at Nellis from 1992-1994, also served as a flight test analyst here in the 57th Test Group from 1994-1996. “I can’t explain truly what this means to me and what this place means to me. I know none of you came here to hear me talk, and I realize I have big shoes to fill, but my goal is to never let any of you down.”