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Off into the wild blue yonder

  • Published
  • By Sgt. David Bolton
  • JTF Guantanamo Public Affairs
In full view of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay command element, a squadron of Airmen, co-workers, peers and friends, Air Force Lt. Col. Edward P. Phillips assumed command of the 474th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron during a Change of Command ceremony Jan. 8, at Camp Justice. Phillips took command after his predecessor's, Air Force Lt. Col. Randy C.A. Whitecotton, tour of duty came to an end.

Overseeing the succession of events for the 474th ECES was Air Force Col. Jonathan R. VanNoord, commander of the 474th Air Expeditionary Group. After passing the unit guidon to Phillips, a tradition symbolizing the commitment to, and acceptance of, responsibility for a unit, VanNoord spoke about the outstanding service Whitecotton and the Base Engineer Emergency Force has provided for GTMO.

"They (the BEEF) have done an amazing job supporting the entire island," said VanNoord. "We appreciate all the work you and your team have done."

VanNoord noted how the BEEF Airmen gave back to the base and community by working at the nursery, helping with beach clean ups, and working safe ride; all in their free time. He also commended the 474th ECES's official accomplishments over the last year.

"They have handled over 1,000 work orders, conducted 23,000 hours of labor, built fire breaks to protect homes and facilities, and supported six commissions; more than any BEEF team in the past."

As part of his farewell remarks, Whitecotton thanked those present for their support during his time as commander of the BEEF.

"I am grateful for your unwavering commitment to the mission," said Whitecotton. "Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success. Through that 'can do' spirit of our Airmen, we work together to achieve that success."

As the sun rose higher in the Cuban sky, Phillips rose from his seat to address those gathered.

"Not every officer gets to command in an expeditionary environment, let alone in a place as historical as the JTF," said Phillips. "BEEF 14 will continue that tradition of supporting all services.

Phillips remarked as to how his previous deployment experiences with NATO in Iraq and Afghanistan have prepared him for this mission as commander of the 474th ECES.

"I've done a lot of work with other services and part of that is communications," said Phillips. "If you can't speak the common language, it's very hard to understand one another and get stuff done. That's the biggest obstacle."

Phillips said he was very excited about getting down to business and starting his time at GTMO as commander of the BEEF.

"Our goal is to be safe and to maintain the legacy of the Air Force," said Phillips. "The Air Force has a very small presence here so our job is to show what the Air Force, and BEEF in particular, can do across the board."