It was a day for ceremonies at Scott Air Force Base Friday.
The Army celebrated its 238th birthday with a traditional cake-cutting by the oldest and the youngest Army members present, and six new Army recruits took the oath of enlistment.
In addition, the 375th Air Mobility Wing welcomed a new commander, Air Force Col. Kyle J. Kremer, and said good-bye to former commander Col. David L. Almand. Almand has been assigned to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where he will command the 89th Airlift Wing and oversee presidential airlift and special air missions.
At the Army ceremony, retired Army Col. Richard Ross, 75, and newly sworn-in recruit Bernie Cason, 18, together brought a silver ceremonial saber down on the birthday cake with a resounding thunk, making the first cut in the traditional manner.
After five young men and one young women took the Army oath, master of ceremonies Scott Ross reminded the crowd gathered in the plaza at U.S. Transportation Command at Scott that the new recruits have grown up watching men and women of all branches of the armed forces deploy overseas.
"They have watched our nation at war on TV and the Internet for as long as they can remember," he said. "Throw in the fact that at any given time during the past decade, less than 1 percent of the American population has been on active duty and it becomes readily apparent that their decision to join the ranks of our Army is more than a patriotic, or noble, act. It proves that our next greatest generation stands ready, and that they understand the Army value of selfless service, and the idea that freedom is not free."
Cason, a recent graduate of Beaumont High School in St. Louis, said he goes to basic training Aug. 6 at Fort Jackson, S.C., where he will be trained as a transportation management coordinator. He said he's known since the beginning of his senior year that he would join the Army after graduation. There was never any question or doubt in his mind that the Army is the right career choice for him, he said.
He said the Army was his choice "to learn new skills and improve the skills I already have. I like dealing with people and with transportation, you put in data and manage where stuff goes."
Cason added that his family is very supportive of his decision "because I have multiple family members in the Army."
Kremer, who is on his third assignment to Scott, comes from McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, where he served as the vice commander of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing. Kremer was previously assigned to Scott in 2000 where he was assigned to the Headquarters Air Mobility Command as chief of C-5 modernization programs and executive officer to the director of Plans and Programs and again in 2008 where he was the chief of senior leader management at Headquarters Air Mobility Command.
Lt. Gen. Darren W. McDew, commander of the 18th Air Force at Scott, was the presiding officer at the change of command ceremony. He previously served as commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott.
"Kyle comes well qualified to command the 375th," McDew said. "He has proven his leadership. He has a strong character, is committed to airmen and the mission and has the integrity of a true leader. He is a proven air mobility warrior. I have read his record ... he is good. He is the ideal choice to lead this wing and this vital mission."
Kremer said he and his family are happy to return to Scott and look forward to his newest assignment in a community he enjoyed.
"The community partnership is incredible and storied and recognized by the recent Abilene Trophy," he said. "We thoroughly enjoyed living here and we really value the community partnerships and I look forward to continuing that. We are very excited to be back in this organization and back in the cornfields of Illinois. This base is vitally important to our national security and that is what sets us apart as a super power in the world."
The Abilene Trophy was awarded to the base and surrounding communities earlier this week. The trophy is the Air Mobility Command's annual award to the community that is most supportive of its local Air Force base.
Contact reporter Jennifer A. Schaaf at email@example.com or 239-2667.