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33rd Change of Command Ceremony
Col. Todd Canterbury speaks to the 33rd Fighter Wing for the first time as its commander during the wing's change of command ceremony June 14 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Canterbury took command of the wing from Col. Andrew Toth, who leaves to become director of assignments at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Sara Vidoni)
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New senior leadership takes charge of 33rd Fighter Wing

Posted 6/20/2013   Updated 6/20/2013 Email story   Print story


by Chrissy Cuttita
Team Eglin Public Affairs

6/20/2013 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Another career fighter pilot took the helm of the 33rd Fighter Wing June 14 in an official ceremony attended by Team Eglin, their family and community.

Col. Todd Canterbury formally accepted the role when he received the wing guidon from Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., commander, Air Education and Training Command, Randolph AFB, Texas. Col. Andrew Toth served as the 33rd FW commander from March 31, 2011 until he passed the colors to Canterbury at the ceremony.

The new leader of the F-35 Lightning II Integrated Training Center has held assignments as an Air Force Weapons School Instructor, Air Force Thunderbird demonstration pilot, director of operations, fighter squadron commander, and vice wing commander. Canterbury is a command pilot with more than 3,900 hours in the F-35A, F-15E, F-16 and MC-12W aircraft, including 650 combat hours. Prior to arriving here, he served as the as executive officer for the Deputy Commander United States Forces Korea, United Nations Command, Seoul, South Korea.

"It's very exciting to join the F-35 team and continue the success here," Canterbury said during the ceremony. "I can think of no better place to be than right here at the forefront of the F-35 training program developing our next generation of F-35 pilots and maintainers."

Toth remembered fondly how far the wing "Nomads" and the F-35 Integrated Training Center team have come since he arrived just a few months before they their first joint strike fighter was delivered in the summer 2011. The 2012 "year of execution" began with standing up the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron-501 and Air Force flying operations. It ended with an AETC "ready to train" which allowed the wing to begin its first official F-35 pilot courses in 2013.

"Your steady, constant performance will get the system where it needs to be," he said addressing the wing's three groups one last time. "The strategic impact of the maintenance group to get jets flying cannot be measured. As unsung heroes, the Academic Training center understood the focus on the aircraft but plowed forward to get simulators and learning systems ready before 700 students showed up last year."

Leadership acknowledged the skill, determination and talent brought to the F-35 program from the wing. Their work in meeting daily challenges has visibility in the defense, political and international circle.

"Under the wing's outstanding leadership, the men and women here executed their responsibilities in today's highly dynamic environment and helped shape the future so our military and nation remain strong today and tomorrow," said Rice. "Skillfully training 50 pilots and 722 maintainers from three branches of service and our international partners is a significant accomplishment."

While Canterbury serves as commander, the wing will go from a phase of standing up the Department of Defense's home for F-35 training to becoming operationally ready for the combat air forces.

"The path that you set right now will be walked by future generations of Airmen, Sailors, Marines and coalition partners around the globe," said the new wing commander. "Now is our time to perfect our tradecraft as professional warriors and are setting the foundation for the next 50 years of F-35 operations."

Approximately 1,900 members from the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Lockheed Martin Corp., Pratt and Whitney, other contractors and international partners make up the team behind the training wing for the three F-35 variants, organized under Air Education and Training Command.

Nomads not only said their farewells to Colonel Toth, but later that afternoon celebrated their vice commander's retirement. Marine Col. Art Tomassetti, a 15-year veteran of the F-35 program, has been at Eglin since the wing stood up under AETC in 2009. His replacement, Navy Capt. Paul Haas, arrives just in time to see the Navy squadron he once commanded receive their first carrier variants of the joint strike fighter.

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