Flanked by sentinel stratotankers and facing 250 airmen in formation and short-sleeve blues, Col. Derek Salmi assumed command of Fairchild Air Force Base and the 92nd Air Refueling Wing on Friday morning.
Salmi, who previously served at Royal Air Force Mildenhall in the United Kingdom, replaced Col. Ryan Samuelson, who led the base for the past two years. Samuelson, who was transferred to Scott Air Force Base in Illinois as the United States Transportation Command executive officer, was not present.
“It’s not lost on me that I’m about to begin the greatest job that the Air Force has to offer,” Salmi said after being handed the ceremonial guidon marking the change of command. “To join the 92nd Air Refueling Wing is quite simply a fantastic honor, both professionally and personally.”
Salmi said the 92nd wing had “established itself as the tanker wing of choice for rapid global mobility, and that is awesome.”
Since the last change of command at Fairchild, the wing has accomplished 2,600 sorties, passed 35 million pounds of fuel to more than 4,500 aircraft and delivered 200,000 tons of cargo.
Brig. Gen. Darren James, who presided over the assumption of command ceremony, was also the presiding officer during Salmi’s promotion to major a decade ago, which both men mentioned as something special between them.
Before praising Salmi, James spoke of military readiness.
“We must continue to move at the speed of war and become increasingly lethal,” James said. “We must continue to strengthen our military and I will tell you that strength lies in the individuals that are standing in formation today.”
After noting that Salmi comes from a “family of three generations of service,” James said Salmi is a “leader steeped in mobility.” Reflecting on their time serving together, James said Salmi is “wicked smart.”
Salmi was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Kris, and their children Emily, 19; Josh, 14; and Sarah, 10. His parents and brother were also there. During the ceremony, Salmi said his grandfather had served in the “famed Mighty Eighth” during World War II, which carried out bombings in France and Germany, including Berlin, engaged in air-to-air fighter combat with the German Luftwaffe and helped win victory in Europe.
Before serving in the U.K., Salmi was the National Defense Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, part of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is also a command pilot who logged more than 2,800 hours in multiple aircraft, including the KC-135 Stratotanker and C-5 Galaxy.