Lt. Col. R. Gary Charlton II, a Skaneateles resident, assumed command of the New York Air National Guard's 107th Operations Group during a ceremony May 18 at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
Charlton replaced Col. Michael Bank, who is now serving as the 107th Airlift Wing's vice commander.
Charlton was previously the commander of the 138th Attack Squadron and 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse. He has over 25 years of service in the New York Air National Guard.
The 138th Attack Squadron operates the MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft. Squadron members control aircraft orbit over the battlefields in Afghanistan from a command center at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base.
The 107th is in the process of transitioning from operating the C-130 Hercules transport to flying the MQ-9 drones.
Charlton graduated from Weedsport High School in 1989 and shortly after, enlisted in the Air National Guard. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Colombia College in 1995. He was commissioned in 2000 after being selected as an F-16 pilot trainee.
Charlton is now a senior pilot with more than 2,600 flying hours, including four combat deployments flying more than 100 F-16C combat missions in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. He also deployed in support of operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Northern Watch on two separate occasions while he was an enlisted airman.
Col. Robert Kilgore, 107th Airlift Wing Commander, selected Charlton to lead the operations group.
"Although Lt. Col. Charlton is new to us here, his reputation in the state is impeccable. He is well respected and admired and we are fortunate to have him. I am excited and honored to have Gary as the operations group commander and I know I can count on him to lead us forward," Kilgore said.
Charlton will be responsible for leading the 107th Operations Group through its conversion to the MQ-9 aircraft.
The group will be supporting the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, providing highly trained and skilled pilots, sensor operators and mission intelligence coordinators to support the combatant commanders. The plan is to be fully mission-capable in 2017.
"I could not be more excited, honored, yet humbled by this opportunity," Charlton said.
He addressed the men and women of the operations group saying, "We are strong. We are up for the challenge. We are ready for this conversion to what the intelligence community calls 'intelligence with a surgical knife.' I know, together, we can meet these challenges and continue to grow."
Charlton and his wife have two children.
Lt. Col. R Gary Charlton II accepts the guidon of the 107th Operations Group from Col. Robert Kilgore, commander of the 107th Airlift Wing during a change of command ceremony on May 18.