'It feels like coming home:' Col. Benjamin Spencer assumes command of 319th Air Base Wing
GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE--It was expected that Col. Benjamin Spencer would have goals and expectations for his service members as he took command of Grand Forks Air Force Base, but he didn't shy away from what was expected of him.
GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE-It was expected that Col. Benjamin Spencer would have goals and expectations for his service members as he took command of Grand Forks Air Force Base, but he didn't shy away from what was expected of him.
"I promise that every day for my community ... to provide the leadership worthy of your service," he told the 319th Air Base Wing as he assumed command Tuesday. "You are the best America has to offer, and you deserve no less."
Service members and community leaders watched as the officer of 22 years took official command of the base west of Grand Forks. Spencer takes over for Col. Rodney Lewis, who was promoted to a leadership position with the Pentagon.
Since Lewis left in April, Col. Jeremy Thiel has served as acting commander until Spencer arrived from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz.
In his assumption of command speech, Spencer highlighted how Grand Forks reminded him of his hometown, Johnstown, Pa. He told stories of the city being hit by a catastrophic flood in 1889, which killed more than 2,000 people. But like Grand Forks, which was devastated by the 1997 flood, Johnstown, Pa., rebuilt and emerged as a better city, he said.
"I am very proud of growing up there," he said. "The people, from what I have seen, are resilient in Grand Forks, just as they were in Johnstown. It feels like coming home."
His goals in the immediate future are get to know his staff and service members under his command, gain an understanding of the base's mission and engage with the Grand Forks community.
Grand Forks Air Force Base has seen excellent leadership in the past two years under Lewis, said Maj. General Christopher Bence, commander of the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, which provides operational and administrative control to Grand Forks Air Force Base. He noted the base has a strong history and has won multiple awards, adding that service members here are dedicated to their mission.
"We couldn't find a more qualified leader to take over the 319th than Col. Benjamin Spencer," Bence said. "You bring an exceptional set of skills you have honed over the last 22 years."
Bence cited not only Spencer's numerous awards and accolades but his effectiveness in command as reasons why he should lead the 319th.
"Col. Spencer, I am 100 percent confident you are the right leader for this command," Bence said. "You bring the right experience and leadership to take the Warriors of the North at Grand Forks Air Force Base into the future."
Spencer is expected to stay on as the base's commander for two years.