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479th FTG change of command marks new chapter

By Bekah Clark | 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs | June 29, 2011

NAVAL AIR STATION PENSACOLA, Fla — Lt. Col. Neil Allen assumed command of the 479th Flying Training Group from Col. Travis Willis at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., Monday.

The change of command marks the start of a new chapter for the group, which was reactivated Oct. 2, 2009.

The 479th FTG has met several obstacles since the initial stand-up team arrived in June 2009.

"I am so proud of each and every one of you," said Colonel Willis of the group, which started with a staff of just 11 and no aircraft, and has grown to a team of more than 200 with a fleet of 43 aircraft to implement the brand new Combat Systems Officer training program.

"Where the CSO program stands today and the direction it is headed in is thanks to the hard work and dedication of this team," said Colonel Willis, who was also awarded the Legion of Merit during the ceremony.

As the group continues to move into full operational capability, the charge to Colonel Allen is to keep the 479th FTG on the "upward flight path set by Colonel Willis," according to Col. Richard Murphy, 12th Flying Training Wing commander, who presided over the ceremony.

"There is still much work ahead. Your challenges will be different," said Colonel Murphy to Colonel Allen during the ceremony. "It was [Colonel Willis'] job to set a solid foundation for the 479th. His mission is complete. It is your mission to stabilize operations and continue to foster excellence in all who walk through your doors."

Colonel Allen is a command combat systems officer with more than 3,000 hours of flight time and comes to the 479th FTG from National War College at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. He spent time at the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron and the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nev., at Advanced Air and Space Studies at Maxwell AFB, Ala., and has served as commander of the 336th Fighter Squadron and as deputy commander of the 4th Maintenance Group at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.

"I am humbled and excited to have the opportunity to command and train America's treasures at NAS Pensacola," said Colonel Allen. "Being part of the base and community is truly an honor. My family and I look forward to learning all there is to know about the great state of Florida and getting to know Pensacola and the people who call this home."

The 479th FTG is the U.S. Air Force's only training pipeline for combat systems officers and is slated to produce more than 400 qualified CSOs each year.

The CSO program was born from an idea of former Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. John Jumper, who envisioned the navigator, weapons systems officer and electronic warfare officer career fields merging as one. At the completion of their training, each CSO is capable of flying various aircraft platforms across the U.S. Air Force arsenal.