Col. Berkland reflects on time at Eielson Air Force Base during change of command ceremony

Change of Command Ceremony for 354th fighter wing.
Published: Jun. 24, 2023 at 5:47 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - After 3 years of command in the last frontier, Col. David J. Berkland transferred command of Eielson Air Force Base to Col. Paul P. Townsend.

On June 22, the 354th fighter wing, stationed at Eielson Air Force Base, came under new leadership as Col. David “Ajax” Berkland, the current commander of the wing transferred command to Col. Paul “Klaxon” Townsend. The ceremony for the change of command took place inside a hanger where the base was able to display both the F-35A Lightning II and the F-16 Fighting Falcon, both of which are used as multirole combat fighters.

The ceremony was presided by Lt. Gen. David S. Nahom of the United States Air Force. When speaking to the audience, Nahom commended Col. Berkland on his accomplishments while in command of the 354th fighter wing. “During Ajax’s command, he doubled the number of F-35s, fifth-generation aircraft here in Alaska, bedding down 54 aircraft and over 500 additional airmen into the base,” Nahom said.

Berkland also guided Eielson Air Force Base through the Covid-19 pandemic and the mission to make the squadron of F-35s combat ready. The general presented Col. Berkland with the Legion of Merit, which was awarded to the colonel by the President of the United States, for exceptionably meritorious conduct while in command.

When Col. Berkland spoke to the attending crowd, he thanked the many men and women who supported him through his time in command, but he also reassured the fighter wing that they were in good hands with their newest commander. “I’ve gotten to know Klaxon and he’s going to the Icemen with courage, love, character and an aggressive warrior mentality,” said Berkland.

After Berkland received a final salute from his troops, the transfer of command officially took place as Berkland passed the colors of the fighter wing onto Col. Townsend. This part of the ceremony involves the commanding officers to pass along a flag pole that carriers the honors, history and symbols of the fighter wing.

Once Col. Townsend was officially in command of the base, he spoke to his new troops and those in attendance. “I’m excited and I’m humbled to lead and serve with you,” Townsend said. He too thanked his family for all of their support and acknowledged the many accomplishments of the 354th fighter wing, that were achieved under the command of Col. Berkland. Airmen then revealed the flagship F-35 fighter with Col. Townsend’s name and call sign on it.

After the ceremony, the troops and community members at the hanger socialized, said their good-bye’s and met their new commander.

Col. Townsend will continue to carry out the current mission of the 354th fighter wing, to provide combat-ready fifth-generation airpower, advanced integration training and strategic arctic airpower basing.