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Bagram welcomes new commander: Baker takes helm of the 455th AEW

By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier 455th Air Expeditionary Wing

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Brig. Gen. Craig Baker took command of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing during a change of command ceremony June 3, 2017, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

Brig. Gen. Craig Baker, the incoming 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, receives the 455th AEW guidon from Maj. Gen. James Hecker, the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan commander, which officially grants him command of the 455th AEW during a change of command ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 3, 2017. Baker is a command pilot with more than 2,600 flying hours and has commanded at the Squadron and Wing level. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)
Brig. Gen. Craig Baker, the incoming 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, receives the 455th AEW guidon from Maj. Gen. James Hecker, the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan commander, which officially grants him command of the 455th AEW during a change of command ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 3, 2017. Baker is a command pilot with more than 2,600 flying hours and has commanded at the Squadron and Wing level. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)
Brig. Gen. Craig Baker, the incoming 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, receives the 455th AEW guidon from Maj. Gen. James Hecker, the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan commander, which officially grants him command of the 455th AEW during a change of command ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 3, 2017. Baker is a command pilot with more than 2,600 flying hours and has commanded at the Squadron and Wing level. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)
Bagram welcomes new commander: Baker takes helm of the 455th AEW
Brig. Gen. Craig Baker, the incoming 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, receives the 455th AEW guidon from Maj. Gen. James Hecker, the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan commander, which officially grants him command of the 455th AEW during a change of command ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 3, 2017. Baker is a command pilot with more than 2,600 flying hours and has commanded at the Squadron and Wing level. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)
Photo By: Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier
VIRIN: 170603-F-KN424-0309
As the commander of the 455th AEW, Baker will lead the premier counterterrorism air mission in Afghanistan. The wing’s operations enable the NATO Resolute Support mission to successfully train, advise, and assist the military and security forces of Afghanistan, while restricting and deterring the terrorist threat in the region.

“Being given the privilege and gift of command also brings with it many responsibilities, none more important than ensuring mission success and taking care of our deployed Airmen and their families,” said Baker. “Command also produces emotions and feelings that can only come from the honor of leading those who are willing to sacrifice so much for not only their country, but fellow Americans.”

Baker joins the wing from the Checkmate Division, Headquarters Air Staff, where he was responsible for providing air, space, and cyberspace expertise to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and Numbered Air Force and Component commanders. He is a command pilot with more than 2,600 hours flying and has flown the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor.

Baker replaced Brig. Gen. Jim Sears, who commanded the 455th AEW for the last 12 months. During his time at Bagram, Sears’ leadership enabled 15,800 combat sorties, accumulating to 102,877 combat hours, which resulted in more than 1,369 kinetic strike and 2,836 enemies killed in action. Sears thanked his family for their sacrifice the last year, and also thanked the Airmen who project airpower every day.

“Commanding in combat truly has been the greatest honor in my career,” said Sears. “There are U.S. and coalition forces that were able to go back and hug their families because Airmen were there when they needed them. Because of [455th AEW] Airmen like you, there are fewer terrorists in the world today. I am tremendously proud of what you do every day to protect America.

“Thank you for your service and I thank your families for their sacrifices today and every day, so we can successfully conduct counterterrorism operations and enable the train, advise, and assist campaign with our Afghan partners. America is safer because of you.”

Sears will continue his Air Force career as the Director of Intelligence, Operations, and Nuclear Integration, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.

As the ceremony concluded, Baker thanked colleagues, families, friends and mission partners for the wing’s previous and future success. Lastly, he thanked the Airmen of the 455th AEW, who constantly project combat airpower, ensuring Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for terrorists and extremists.

“It is an indescribable and incredible honor to be your new commander,” said Baker. “You our known throughout the Air Force and throughout the world as the very best. We have a phenomenal team here. Your sense of duty, loyalty and commitment make a seemingly impossible task look easy. You represent the standard of excellence expected of our Airmen and outstanding array of 21st century combat airpower.”