Eglin wing prepares for transition to AETC

Col. Todd Harmer, 33rd Fighter Wing commander, prepares to take off in an F-15 Eagle during the unit's last large force deployment exercise that occurred in Savannah, Ga., May 11-21. In fulfillment of the wing's transition to Air Education and Training Command, the commander will fly the last F-15 of 54 aircraft to its final destination in Tucson, Ariz., Sept. 8. It will be Colonel Harmer’s last flight before departing on a one-year deployment to Southwest Asia and leaving his office empty for a new wing commander Oct. 1, when the official transition will take place. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Russ Wells)

Col. Todd Harmer, 33rd Fighter Wing commander, prepares to take off in an F-15 Eagle during the unit's last large force deployment exercise that occurred in Savannah, Ga., May 11-21. In fulfillment of the wing's transition to Air Education and Training Command, the commander flew the last F-15 of 54 aircraft to its final destination in Tucson, Ariz., Sept. 8. It was Colonel Harmer’s last flight before departing on a one-year deployment to Southwest Asia and leaving his office empty for a new wing commander Oct. 1, when the official transition will take place. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Russ Wells)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Since January 2008, Col. Todd Harmer has led the 33rd Fighter Wing Nomads, continuing the unit's legacy to the end of its 30-year era of flying the F-15 Eagle as an operational combat wing.

The colonel flew the wing's last F-15 to its final destination in Tucson, Ariz., Sept. 8, marking his final flight before departing on a one-year deployment to Southwest Asia. A ceremony Oct. 1 marks the wing's official transition to the Air Force's Air Education and Training Command.

"It's bittersweet knowing that once I'm airborne, it's the end of the Eagle's 30-year association with the 33rd Fighter Wing, and the ramp will sit empty until the F-35s arrive next year," Colonel Harmer said before the flight. "Commanding the Nomads has been an honor and I'm proud to have been a part of a unit with such an incredible record including MiG kills in Desert Storm to sorties supporting Operation Noble Eagle. The professionalism of our Airmen, our proud heritage and reputation will surely follow through in each Nomad's career."

Colonel Harmer said he has met his number one goal, quoted in a March 2008 article, for Airmen to stay focused and provide the best air control and air superiority in the Air Force, all while knowing they would drawdown the wing's F-15 combat mission and ramp up the Joint Strike Fighter training mission.

Since Colonel Harmer has been known as Nomad 1 in the cockpit, he was in charge of more than 2,000 assigned personnel and supporting 2,500 family members. The wing had two fighter squadrons consisting of 54 F-15C/D air superiority aircraft, an air control squadron, an operations support squadron, a maintenance operations squadron, a maintenance squadron, and an aircraft maintenance squadron.

"As I depart I will take away many fond memories of my time as Nomad 1," said Colonel Harmer. "The greatest will be the incredible professionalism and dedication of America's Airmen."

The commander said a recent example of one of the many wing success stories happened half way through the wing's drawdown period when they were tasked with the heaviest Operation Noble Eagle commitment to date. 

"In a six-month period we handled 10 deployments, on three continents, without missing a single mission and maintained the highest F-15 mission capable rate in the Air Force. I cannot begin to describe how proud that makes me feel," he said.

Over the course of his leadership here, the wing had its ups and downs. While they had the opportunity to celebrate victory in the skies of Alaska, Canada or Southwest Asia during multi-force exercises, Nomads also bonded together as a family to overcome the tragic loss of a pilot during a mid-air collision in February 2008 over the Gulf of Mexico. First 1st Lt. Ali Jivanjee is forever remembered by the wing, specifically with his name embossed on one of the Nomad aircraft that now serves as a static display at the Northwest Florida Regional Airport.

While most of the current personnel, equipment, and Eagles have left the wing's complex on Eglin, many new faces are arriving daily with Air Education and Training Command orders to stand up a new era of 33rd FW history.

"The past year and a half has been a period of unprecedented change in the wing's history," said Colonel Harmer. "It is human nature to resist change...we hate change; and that presented a leadership challenge. The solution was to paint the transition not as change but as progress--progress for our Air Force, our Joint Force, and for America. As a result, every Airman in the wing embraced our role; we not only continued to provide unrivaled air superiority assets, but also prepared the wing for its new mission and aircraft."

Colonel Harmer entered the Air Force in 1986 after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering and has held various operational and staff assignments in the United States, Europe and the Pacific. He is a command pilot with over 3,300 flight hours, primarily in the F-15 and F-16.