NY Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing gets a new commander on Friday, June 5
Col. Shawn Fitzgerald, a Cutchogue resident and combat veteran, takes command of the 106th Rescue Wing
WESTHAMPTON BEACH, NY (06/05/2020) (readMedia)-- New York Air National Guard Colonel Shawn Fitzgerald, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, and an Army combat veteran, took command of the 106th rescue wing this afternoon, Friday June 5, during a ceremony at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base.
Fitzgerald, a Cutchogue resident, replaced Col. Michael Bank who has led the wing since 2006.
He is the first non-pilot and the first Combat Rescue Officer to command the 106th Rescue Wing. He is the second combat rescue officer to command an Air Force wing.
Combat Rescue Officers are responsible for coordinating and commanding rescue missions.
Bank was promoted to brigadier general (one-star) during the ceremony and will be undertaking a new assignment at New York Air National Guard headquarters in Latham, New York.
Because of the social distancing requirements currently in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, this change of command did not take place before the traditional massed formation of wing Airmen. Only key participants-commanders and a few staff members-took part in the event. The participants wore facemasks and observed social distancing rules during the event, remaining as far apart as possible.
The change of command was videotaped and made available to wing members and the public on YouTube and on the Defense Visual Information Distribution System (DIVIDS).
Video of the change of command ceremony can be seen here on You Tube: https://youtu.be/4cj0swHLLN0
and on the Defense Visual Information Distribution System (DVIDS) here: https://www.dvidshub.net/video/755144/106th-rescue-wing-change-command-and-promotion-michael-w-bank-brigadier-general
Photographs from the ceremony and of Brig. Gen. Bank's promotion can be seen here on FLCKR: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nyng/albums/72157714590522881
Army National Guard Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York, presided over the ceremony.
In his remarks Shields praised both Bank and Fitzgerald and the Airmen of the 106th Rescue Wing.
"I'm very proud of the wing and can't thank the Airmen enough. They can always be counted on to deliver first class mission support when required" Shields said.
In his remarks, Bank also praised the Airmen of the 106th for their service during his time as commander.
"I am extremely proud and honored to serve with and for these great Airmen that make up the 106th Rescue Wing. God's speed to all of you and your families" ,Bank said.
Fitzgerald said he was looking forward to leading the wing.
Fitzgerald has served in the 106th Rescue Wing since he transferred from the Army to the Air National Guard in 2006.
"I'm honored to be selected as the next Wing Commander of the 106th Rescue Wing. I've had the good fortune and pleasure to be a part of this Wing and I look forward to continuing to work with this great team of selfless Airmen, Fitzgerald said."
"The 106th Rescue Wing has been home to my family and I for the past 14 years. I am proud of the great work done by the men and women of this amazing team. I know we will continue to lead the way through this challenging time," Fitzgerald added."
Fitzgerald graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1996 and joined the Army first instead of the Air Force. He said that was because his father and grandfather had served in the Army. He served in the Army from 1997 until 2006.
"I was able to see firsthand the work of Air Force Rescue in Afghanistan," Fitzgerald said, explaining why he decided to join the Air Force. "Watching their professionalism and ability to accomplish the mission made me want to be a part of that team."
During his time in the Army when he served as the brigade assistant operations officer, he was part of Operation Northern Delay, a combat parachute jump staged by 1,000 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade to seize the Basha Airfield in Erbil during the coalition invasion of Iraq in March 2003. He played a part in planning the mission, which was the largest airborne combat jump into one drop zone since World War II.
Fitzgerald transferred to the 106th Rescue Wing where he first served as director of operations for the 103rd Rescue Squadron, where the pararescue Airmen are assigned.
He was in that role until 2011 when he became commander of the 106th Operations Support Squadron. From 2012-2015, he commanded the 103rd Rescue Squadron. And from 2015 to 2018 he commanded the 106th Mission Support Group. He currently serves as the 106th Rescue Wing's vice commander.
He and his wife Nicci have two sons, Colin and Trevor.
Fitzgerald is a graduate of the Army Infantry Officer Basic Course and the Army's Captains Career Course along with being a graduate of the Air Force Academy.
He has completed the Air Command and Staff College, the Naval Postgraduate School, the Air War College, and Advanced Joint Professional Military Education at the National Defense University.
Fitzgerald attended a homeland security course at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and is certified to serve as a Dual Status Commander, commanding National Guard, active duty and federal Reserve military forces during a domestic response operation.
His awards include two Bronze Stars, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Afghanistan and Iraq campaign medals, the NATO Medal, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border, the Army Combat Infantryman Badge, the Ranger Tab, Military Freefall Wings, and Master Parachutists Wings.
The 106th Rescue Wing operates HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue aircraft and HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters along with a Guardian Angel Squadron comprised of Combat Rescue Officers, Pararescuemen, and Survival, Escape, Resist and Evasion Specialists.
The 106th supports Air Force personnel recovery operations, performs civil search and rescue missions, and assists state emergency response and disaster relief efforts as directed by the Governor of New York.
More than 150 members of the wing have been mobilized in support of the state's COVID-19 pandemic response.