LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS —
Col. Robert MacDonald relinquished command of the 737th Training Group Jan. 18 during a change of command at the Lackland Parade Grounds at 9 a.m., the site where he has watched thousands of trainees during the past 18 months graduate.
The commander of the Air Force's sole basic military training group comprised of nine squadrons, more than 650 permanent party personnel and a daily student load of more than 6,000, will be going to Afghanistan for a year. He has been assigned to the Combined Air Power Transition Force, where he will help build the Afghan army air corps into a viable military force.
"The best thing that happens here happens every Friday at parade, when our Airmen graduate, because when that happens you know your MTIs have been successful, and the instructional cadre, and more importantly the trainees, have been successful," said Colonel MacDonald. "So, it's kind of a week to week payoff for all of our efforts."
During his tour at Lackland, Colonel MacDonald has focused on physical fitness and building a curriculum for the 8 1/2 week BMT scheduled to start in November, which will impart additional warfighting skills.
"Colonel MacDonald's greatest contribution is his extraordinary leadership and devotion to keeping BMT focused on our primary goal, the Airmen we are preparing to fight and win America's wars," said Lt. Col. Richard Edge Jr., deputy commander of the 737th TRG. "He never wavered or faltered in serving each of them in his accomplishment of the BMT mission. It's been a pleasure and honor to serve by his side, planning and executing the greatest changes to basic military training in the past 60 years."
According to Colonel MacDonald, producing quality Airmen is a humbling and rewarding experience because of the transformation the trainees undergo. He said while parents of trainees are impressed with the external transformation, the real changes are internal with regard to spirit and attitude.
"Colonel MacDonald is the most philosophical and intelligent commander I have ever had," said Lt. Col. Daniel Edwards, 319th Training Squadron commander. "He loved the process of basic military training. Addition-ally, he has a keen sense for breaking down complex matters in a way necessary to move forward and get the mission accomplished."
The 1983 Air Force Academy graduate, MC-130 E Combat Talon I and MC-130H Combat Talon II pilot with more than 4,300 flight hours, said he will miss the BMT family which he de-scribed as awesome.
"Colonel MacDonald is a man of his word, he has the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the needs of others," said Master Sgt. Janice Allen, 737th TRG. "He is a true leader. I would follow him into battle."
Col. Edward Westermann, formerly a professor of Military Strategic Studies and director of Curriculum Integration at the Air Force Academy, Colo., will assume command of the group.