176th gets new wing king

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Col. Donald S. Wenke received the 176th Wing's command flag from Alaska's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus, at a change-of-command ceremony here Sept. 18.

More than 500 guardsmen and community leaders attended the event that publicly demonstrated the change in leadership of one of the country's largest and busiest Air Guard wings.

Brig. Gen. Charles E. "Chuck" Foster, the relinquishing leader, expressed appreciation toward the assembled guardsmen after serving more than three years as their wing commander.

"I want to thank you for being the kind of airmen who make it worth it to get up early on a drill weekend, make it worth it to leave my family and deploy with you," Foster said in anticipation of the ceremony.

Katkus expressed confidence in the wing's future.

"The 176th is going to continue to do great things" under Col. Wenke's leadership, he said.

The wing commander accepted his position with respect.

"It's an honor to be selected," Wenke said.

Wenke accepted the responsibility after serving 24 years in the Air National Guard. He is not new to wing leadership: He began serving as vice wing commander in April, and before that commanded the Air Guard's Eielson-based 168th Air Refueling Wing.

In his speech, Wenke said his top priorities for the wing were its people, mission, resources and community. He also talked about what would be asked of wing members.

"As the commander, I will ask each of you to take calculated risks," Wenke said. "Remaining in your comfort zone does nothing to secure our future. For me, the road less traveled has held great rewards."
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