New York Air National Guard Col. Gary Charlton II, a Skaneateles resident, took command of the 107th Attack Wing during a ceremony at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Saturday, Nov. 17.
Charlton, who formerly served as the wing vice commander, replaced Col. Robert Kilgore, as the leader of more than 700 airmen after four years in command. Charlton joined the 107th Attack Wing in 2015 as commander of the 107th Operations Group after a career in the 174th Attack Wing, Syracuse.
"My family and I cannot be happier and so humbled to have been entrusted with this great honor and responsibility of being the 107th's next wing commander," Charlton said. "Following the footsteps of Col. Kilgore will be no small feat."
Charlton joined the wing during a period of transition for the 107th. After flying the C-130 Hercules for several years, the wing began converting to the MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft in 2014. Under Kilgore's leadership, wisdom and vision, the 107th has returned to its beginnings, Charlton told wing members during the ceremony.
"We are once again a combat unit, an attack wing, an operational ready reserve, engaging in daily combat operations, while also building the 21st century airman as we prepare to send our war fighters into harm's way over the coming year," Charlton said.
The 107th traces its history back to 1942, when the unit served in World War II as the 339th Fighter Group flying the P-51 Mustang. This began decades of the 107th making history with various fighter aircraft, until 1994 when their F-16 Fighting Falcons were turned in for KC-135R Stratotankers.
"Members of the 107th, your patriotism, volunteerism and dedication to something larger than yourself is what empowers this wing to take the fight to the enemy," said Charlton. "You make it happen."
Charlton enlisted in the Air National Guard in 1990 becoming a fuel systems technician. He graduated from Columbia College in 1995 earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. He is a senior pilot with more than 2,700 flying hours, including four combat deployments flying over 100 F-16C Fighting Falcon combat missions in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
While he was enlisted, Charlton deployed in support of operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Northern Watch on two separate occasions.
Charlton's awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal, the Meritorious Unit Award, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Air Force Overseas Ribbon, and the Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon.