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Ops Group enters new era

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Brig. Gen. Susan Helms, 45th Space Wing commander, congratulates 45th Operations Group Commander Col. Bernie Gruber upon his accepting command July 12, while Col. David Thompson, outgoing 45th OG commander, claps. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jim Laviska)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Brig. Gen. Susan Helms, 45th Space Wing commander, congratulates 45th Operations Group Commander Col. Bernie Gruber upon his accepting command July 12, while Col. David Thompson, outgoing 45th OG commander, claps. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jim Laviska)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The 45th Operations Group has a new commander. Col. Bernie Gruber received the group's guidon from 45th Space Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Susan Helms during a change of command ceremony Thursday at the Patrick Base Theater. 

Colonel Gruber arrived at Patrick Monday from Washington, D.C., where he recently completed a National Defense Fellowship at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a premier think tank. He is a former commander of a space operations squadron and served as acting commander, Space Operations Group, Secretary of the Air Force, Special Projects Directorate, from July 2003 to July 2006. 

Colonel Gruber said he and his family are grateful to be here. He also expressed appreciation for the opportunity to return to a numbered wing that performs the "best part of the Air Force mission, space operations." 

"General Helms, I proudly accept this command and I thank you and General Shelton for the opportunity to serve," he said. "To the entire 45th Operations Group, my fellow group commanders and the community at large, I thank you for coming today and sharing this occasion. I am sincerely looking forward to working with all of you - military, civilian, contractor and public sector alike." 

As the new commander of the 45th OG, Colonel Gruber said he has some big shoes to fill, literally. 

"I have absolutely enormous shoes to fill ... and Colonel Thompson ... I truly mean enormous shoes!" exclaimed Colonel Gruber. "Thank you for the incredible welcome that you and your family have passed on to ours. I want to wish you Godspeed in your new command and I thank you for leaving an incredible legacy here with the 45th Operations Group." 

Prior to the ceremony, Col. David Thompson, outgoing 45th OG commander, bid farewell to the wing and welcomed its incoming commander. 

"I've had the chance to get to know Colonel Gruber over the past few months," said Colonel Thompson. "He is a great officer with experience that will allow him to bring a fresh perspective to operations. He will make a great team better still." 

Colonel Thompson leaves the 45th SW to become a wing-level commander. He will command the Aerospace Data Facility, a tenant unit of the 460th Space Wing at Buckley AFB, Colo. 

Regarding the future of the 45th Space Wing, Colonel Thompson said, "The challenges will only continue to grow. It will take a team of exceptional military and civilian Airmen to conquer those challenges. I can't think of a better team to do that than the Sharks of the 45th Space Wing." 

"Colonel Thompson has done an outstanding job commanding our Ops Group," said Brig. Gen. Susan Helms, 45th SW commander. "I'm confident Colonel Gruber will do the same as we prepare for a new era in space operations."