The Air Force’s 368th Training Squadron held a change of command ceremony June 25 at the Engineer Memorial Grove, saying farewell to Lt. Col. Josh Aldred and welcoming new squadron commander Lt. Col. Allen Branco.
While social-distancing protocols limited the number of attendees, the event was live streamed on the Fort Leonard Wood Facebook page.
The presiding officer for the change of command was Air Force Col. Loren Graham, 782nd Training Group commander at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, who spoke on the importance of the joint-service training environment Airmen experience at Fort Leonard Wood.
“The joint training accomplished here reflects the operational environment that Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines will experience when deployed, making it that much more important to introduce our newest service members to the sometimes-stubborn parochialism that makes each service distinctly different while performing very similar missions,” he said. “Train like you fight is not just a catchphrase to be thrown around in mission briefings. Train like you fight saves time, resources and lives … as the training environment enables our newest members to gain a healthy respect for what each service contributes to the joint fight before the bullets fly.”
Graham said Aldred – who will next command the 366th Civil Engineer Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho – was handpicked to stand up the 368th TRS at Fort Leonard Wood.
“Your unyielding commitment to the training mission has garnered more results than time permits,” Graham said. “Your squadron is motivated, dedicated and committed to produce ready Airmen to the field. Thank you for your leadership.”
Graham offered a quote from former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry.
“The quote reads, ‘a winner never stops trying,’ and you, sir, are a winner,” he said. “Leadership is a contact sport – Lt. Col. Aldred is the MVP of the league.”
To Branco, who he called “the right officer for the job,” Graham offered the following advice.
“Lean on the men and women of the 368th and I am confident they will not let you down,” he said.
Aldred offered his final remarks as a commander at Fort Leonard Wood.
“Our job here is to train and inspire the next generation of Airmen – make sure they leave here as more effective leaders for our Air Force,” he said.
Aldred added that he felt the most appropriate way to say goodbye was to talk about leadership principles that have made him successful, including taking care of people.
“I’m a big fan of the Golden Rule – treat everyone with dignity and respect,” he said. “We all have something to contribute to the fight. I’m a big fan of the phrase: the mission, men and me. I’ve always been a fan of saying ‘I’ll take care of my people and they’ll take care of the mission.’ That has served me well. I want to say thank you to those who took care of the mission while you were here.”
Branco, who comes to Fort Leonard Wood from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, where he commanded the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron, said he looks forward to taking on his new duties in Missouri.
“Thank you for entrusting me with the great responsibility to lead this incredible group of leaders and warriors,” he said. “I’m excited to join a team of military members, civilians, contractor partners and families – a team that trains, inspires and develops the world’s most professional and lethal Airmen warfighters.”
The 368th TRS provides initial skills and advanced-level training to 2,000-plus Airmen in the areas of pavement management, emergency management, engineering assistance and ground transportation. Prior to the squadron’s activation on October 17, 2018, the Air Force training presence on Fort Leonard Wood was as Detachment 1 of Sheppard Air Force Base’s 364th Training Squadron. Becoming a self-sustaining squadron here brought more staff to support training efforts.
The 368th traces its heraldry to the 368th Bombardment Squadron, which served under the 8th Air Force in the European Theater of Operations during World War II.