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Lt. Col. Gary Charlton becomes 107th Operations Group commander

Lt. Col. Chris Thurn, 107th Operations Support Squadron Commander, renders the first salute to Lt. Col. Gary R. Charlton II as commander of the 107th AW Operations Group during a change of command ceremony at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, May 16, 2015.

Lt. Col. Chris Thurn, 107th Operations Support Squadron Commander, renders the first salute to Lt. Col. Gary R. Charlton II as commander of the 107th AW Operations Group during a change of command ceremony at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, May 16, 2015 (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Campbell).

New 107th Operations Group Commander Lt. Col. Gary R. Charlton II addresses guests, and the men and women of the unit attending the change of command ceremony at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, May 16, 2015.

New 107th Operations Group Commander Lt. Col. Gary R. Charlton II addresses guests, and the men and women of the unit attending the change of command ceremony at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, May 16, 2015 (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Campbell).

107th AW Commander Col. Robert G. Kilgore presents the 107th AW Operations Group flag to new commander, Lt. Col. Gary R. Charlton II, during a change of command ceremony at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, May 16, 2015.

107th AW Commander Col. Robert G. Kilgore presents the 107th AW Operations Group flag to new commander, Lt. Col. Gary R. Charlton II, during a change of command ceremony at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, May 16, 2015 (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Campbell).

NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. -- A change of command ceremony was held here May 18 as Lt. Col. R. Gary Charlton II became the 107th Operations Group commander.

In the traditional ceremony, the outgoing commander, Col. Michael W. Bank, symbolically passed the group's flag to the new commander. Bank is now serving as the wing's vice commander.  

Charlton was previously the commander of the 138th Attack Squadron, 174th Attack Wing, Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York. He has over 25 years of service in the New York Air National Guard.

Charlton graduated from Weedsport High School in 1989 and shortly after enlisted in the Air National Guard. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Colombia College in 1995. He was commissioned in 2000 after being selected as an F-16 pilot trainee.

Charlton is now a senior pilot with more than 2600 flying hours, including four combat deployments flying more than 100 F-16C combat missions in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. He also deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Northern Watch on two separate occasions while he was an enlisted Airman.

Col. Robert Kilgore, 107th Airlift Wing Commander, selected Charlton to lead the operations group.

"Although Lt. Col. Charlton is new to us here, his reputation in the state is impeccable. He is well respected and admired and we are fortunate to have him. I am excited and honored to have Gary as the operations group commander and I know I can count on him to lead us forward," said Kilgore.

Charlton will be responsible for leading the 107th Operations Group through their conversion to the MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft. They will be supporting the 432d Air Expeditionary Wing, providing highly trained and skilled pilots, sensor operators and mission intelligence coordinators to support the combatant commanders. They plan to be fully mission capable in 2017.

"I could not be more excited, honored, yet humbled by this opportunity," Charlton said.

Charlton addressed the men and women of the operations group saying, "We are strong. We are up for the challenge. We are ready for this conversion to what the intelligence community calls 'intelligence with a surgical knife.' I know, together, we can meet these challenges and continue to grow."