Double Change of Command

Story by Maj Kathy Salatas; Photos by MSgt Jeff Myers   -   Posted Jul, 2001

During the June drill weekend the Washington Air National Guard held retirement ceremonies honoring two commanders with over 68 years of distinguished military service between them. Lt. Col. Gary Phillips retired and yielded command of the 262nd Combat Communications Squadron, headquartered in Bellingham, to Maj. Herb Porter. On the same day the command of the 215th Engineering Installation Squadron, headquartered at Paine Field in Everett, passed from the retiring Col. William P. Canavan to the capable hands of Maj. T. Ray Willaford.

This past June, the 215th Engineering Installation Squadron (EIS), headquartered at Paine Field, Everett, held a change of command ceremony upon the retirement of their commander, Col. Canavan, at the conclusion of an illustrious 32-year career.  His successor, Maj. Willaford, is the former Network Systems Flight Commander for the 242nd Combat Communications Squadron, headquartered at Geiger Air National Guard Station.

Col. Canavan (r) transfers command to Maj. Willaford (l) through the traditional passing of the guidon

The mission of the 215th EIS is to train for Expeditionary Air Force missions, and federal and state contingencies in support of the Total Force effort.  They engineer, install, modify, maintain, reconstitute, and replace Command, Control, Communications and Computer (referred to as C4) systems in order to sustain information superiority for the warfighters.

During the past eighteen months Col. Canavan initiated the largest single deployment in the unit's history.  He served three months in Southwest Asia as the Program Manager for the Desert Shift project, and led the way for 48 other unit members to follow.  Part of the new Expeditionary Aerospace Force, he and the others played a major role in the design, construction and relocation of Joint Task Force Southwest Asia (JTF SWA) to the new, state of the art, Combined Air Operations Center, Joint Intelligence Center and Headquarter facilities located at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia.  Click here for more information about project Desert Shift.

On the same day, the 262nd Combat Communications Squadron (CBCS), headquartered in Bellingham, held ceremonies honoring the retirement of their outgoing commander Lt. Col. Gary Phillips, and welcoming their new commander, Maj. Herb Porter.  Lt. Col. Phillips retired after 36 years of military service.

Outgoing Commander of the 262nd, Lt. Col. Phillips (r), and incoming commander Maj. Herb Porter (l)

The 262nd CBCS is tasked with training and equipping combat communications personnel to field, install, operate, and maintain Ground Mobile Force communications in support of tactical air forces deployed around the world.  Upon activation, the unit answers to the US Air Force's Air Combat Command, with a mission area of central Europe.

As commander of the 262nd Lt. Col. Phillips was responsible for the unit's day-to-day operations, the 20 full-time personnel as well as the traditional Air Guard members assigned to this unit.  During his command Lt Col Phillips maintained strong community relations with the city of Bellingham and was instrumental for bringing the Vietnam Moving Wall Exhibit to Ferndale last summer.

Maj. Herb Porter served as the Washington Air National Guard's Professional Development Officer, and as Public Affairs Officer, prior to assuming command of the 262nd.