04/02/10 — The guidon is passed

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The guidon is passed

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 2, 2010 1:46 PM

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Maj. Gen. William Holland, left, former 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Mark Kelly and newly named 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Patrick Doherty salute.

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Col. Patrick Doherty, right, officially takes command of the 4th Fighter Wing from 9th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. William Holland Thursday during a change of command ceremony on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

For an event designed to signify the transfer of power from one Air Force colonel to another, Thursday's 4th Fighter Wing change of command ceremony seemed to have less to do with the officers on stage than with those airmen who turned out to say goodbye to one leader and officially welcome another.

Both outgoing Commander Col. Mark Kelly and his replacement, Col. Patrick Doherty, said it was those young men and women who represent the wing both at home and abroad who truly define a term in the high post.

"Your results are truly eye-watering. ... Yours was a fight well-fought. ... I'm truly in awe of your accomplishments," Kelly said to the crowd, shortly before passing the guidon to the man who had, until that moment, been his vice commander. "That's what I love about our airmen: They do not falter. They do not fail."

But as Kelly stepped aside -- and later, Doherty delivered his first remarks -- the magnitude of the assignment -- and the amount of responsibility that comes with it -- was clear.

"As you can imagine, I stand here humbled and excited," Doherty said.

Humbled by the words spoken during his introduction -- delivered by 9th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. William Holland who described the colonel as a "seasoned combat veteran" ready to lead the wing back to war.

And excited about the prospect of being part of a storied tradition with a history that dates back to World War II.

But when the colonel spoke about his new assignment, he said "it's the people" that have motivated him throughout his career to aim toward greatness.

Just as he knows his pending stint as their commander will likely be defined by their accomplishments both down range and at home station.

"We will succeed. Our Air Force and country are counting on it," Doherty said. "There is no doubt (that) the 4th Fighter Wing, we are all in and we always have been. ... That's who we are. That's what we do."

Doherty, a command pilot with more than 3,400 flying hours, has operational experience from Operations Provide Comfort, Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom.

Before taking command of the 4th Thursday, he had served nearly eight years at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base over the course of his career as a member of the 334th and 336th Fighter Squadron, commander of the 335th Fighter Squadron and the wing's vice commander.

Among his most notable decorations are the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star.

Holland called him the right man for the job and said he feels confident that the 4th will continue in its tradition of excellence with Doherty in charge.

"You all know him already. He's been a part of your team at one time or another for about eight years," the general said. "He, too, will continue to rely on you ... and so will the nation. (Your nation) needs you now more than ever."

Kelly agreed.

"I can't think of a better family to lead this wing," he said. "It's going to be a great ride."