TAMPA — With traditional Air Force pomp that included ceremonial swords and rendition of the Air Force song, a new commander took the helm of the 927th Air Refueling Wing at MacDill Air Force Base in a change of command ceremony Saturday.
Col. Douglas J. Schwartz, 56, an Indiana native who most recently served as director of staff at the Fourth Air Force's Air Reserve Command at March Air Reserve Base in California, takes over from Col. David Pavey.
Pavey is taking Schwartz's job at March.
"I have big shoes to fill," Schwartz said in a ceremony at a MacDill hangar. "I don't take that lightly."
The 927th is an Air Force Reserve unit that works with MacDill's host unit, the 6th Air Mobility Wing. Pilots and crews for both units fly and share the 16 KC-135 Stratotanker refueling jets assigned to MacDill. More than 800 personnel are assigned to the 927th.
The change of command comes just days after the Air Force announced MacDill was not getting any of the next-generation refueling tankers now being built by the Boeing Co. That means MacDill may not get any new tankers until after 2028.
The decision, disappointing to local political leaders, ensured MacDill will be flying the Eisenhower-era KC-135s for the next 20 to 30 years.
A KC-135 was rolled part of the way into the hangar for the change of command, providing a reminder the plane will remain MacDill's signature aircraft for many more years.
In fact, an old joke among pilots is that the KC-135's last pilot hasn't been born yet.
Col. Scott DeThomas, commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing, attended the change of command and said afterward that the Air Force was committed to flying the KC-135 for decades to come. He said the Air Force's decision doesn't mean MacDill is going out of the air-refueling business.
The KC-135, he said, has performed well in Iraq and Afghanistan and pilots still enjoy flying them.
"It's a great airplane," DeThomas said. "It's got a proven track record of high performance."
Schwartz, a pilot who has flown the KC-135 since 1992, previously served at MacDill, including a stint as operations group commander for the 927th from 2008 to 2010. A Purdue University graduate, Schwartz was commissioned as an officer in 1981.
Pavey has served as the 927th's commander since April 2010, telling gathered personnel, "I am just so thoroughly impressed by the work you have done."
He added, "I'll be seeing you around. It's a small Air Force, and it's getting smaller."
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.