By Jeff Harrison
There is a new commander at Tinker Air Force Base.
Col. Paul Filcek took the reigns of the 72nd Air Base Wing Friday morning during a change of command ceremony. The new commander succeeds Col. Kenyon Bell, who will become the 82nd Training Wing commander at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Filcek had served as vice commander of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex since July.
Bell has been at Tinker for nearly five years. He served as Deputy Commander of the 76th Propulsion Maintenance Group and Commander of the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group, before being promoted to Commander of the 72nd Air Base Wing on May 15, 2017.
Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland, Air Force Sustainment Center commander, said that Bell ensured that Tinker was ready to serve in defense of the nation while strengthening relationships with the greater Oklahoma City community.
“Col. Bell has drawn support for strategic missions despite inconsistent federal budgets, shifting mission priorities and an aging infrastructure,” Kirkland said. “I watched him stand tall during significant challenges that were not of his making.
He also pointed to construction projects that have been undertaken during Bell’s time at Tinker. A new air traffic control tower and several hangars have been completed as part of the KC-46A tanker maintenance complex, along with other projects and roadwork on the base. Bell also helped in the planning for the future B-21 bomber depot.
“I have learned from Col. Bell that construction is progress and he’s generated a lot of progress,” Kirkland said.
Kirkland also joked that he was happy that Bell landed just across the border at Sheppard AFB.
“In just a few minutes, you could be north of the Red River and back in the state of Oklahoma,” he said.
“You are prepared and more than ready for this next challenge,” Kirkland said. “You’re the right leader at the right time. And I’m looking forward to seeing the 72nd Air Base Wing flourish under your leadership.”
Bell said this week has been special as the nation commemorates the 75th anniversary of D-Day. He noted another important anniversary. Maj. Gen. Clarence Tinker, the base’s namesake, was killed in action on June 7, 1942, while serving in the Pacific theater during World War II.
“We commemorate the end of his life by birthing a new commander on the day some 77 years later,” Bell said.
Bell thanked his fellow airmen, civilian employees, community partners and his dedicated family for their support during his time at Tinker.
“The fact is that I had a team that just made me look good on stage,” he said.
Bell congratulated Filcek on the opportunity to lead this base.
“You are getting an amazing wing,” Bell said to Filceck. “You are getting a group of people that will lay down and serve and serve and serve, time and time again.”
After Bell’s remarks, he relinquished command of the wing. Kirkland accepted the flag from Bell and later presented it to the new commander.
Filcek commended Bell for his leadership and thanked him for his mentorship.
“I have an insufficient vocabulary to tell you guys how honored I am to take the baton from Col. Bell,” Filcek said. “I have known him for 10 months and he has become my go to, my mentor and my trusted friend. You achieve absolute professionalism and you embody unbreakable honor. This is a world class wing beyond doubt because they reflect your values.”
Filcek said he looks forward to working with fellow wing commanders, mission partners, the community and government leaders to achieve mutual victories.
“I feel like we’ve been drafted onto the Super Bowl champs,” he said. “I will invest every single minute earning your trust and sustaining that trust as we generate American air power in defense of this nation.”
Tiffany Redden performed the National Anthem and Chaplain Maj. Samuel Bridges gave the invocation.