152nd Air Operations Group Welcomes New Commander

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Brett Decker
  • 174th Attack Wing
New York Air National Guard Col. Brian VanKouwenberg, formerly the 152nd Combat Operations Squadron (COS) Commander, assumed command of the 152nd Air Operations Group (AOG) in a ceremony on Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Saturday, June 11.

Col. Michael Smith, 174th Attack Wing commander was the presiding official for the ceremony.

VanKouwenberg replaced Col. Michael Comella, who had commanded the 152nd AOG since 2012. A retirement celebration for Comella was held following the assumption of command ceremony.

The formal assumption of command ceremony is a ceremony rooted in history, dating back to the Roman Legions. Military organizations developed flags or colors unique to their unit. Soldiers followed their colors into battle, and always knew whom to look for, for leadership. The public exchange of colors acknowledged the formal change of command. Saturday, the men and women of the 152nd saw their unit guidon, along with command responsibility and authority pass from Comella to VanKouwenberg.

When discussing the group's future under VanKouwenberg's leadership Comella said, "The 152nd AOG is in great hands with Col. VanKouwenberg now at the helm as the 14th commander of the AOG."

Comella went on to say, "Having nearly 10 years working in the 152nd, Col. VanKouwenberg brings many years of experience in the U. S. Air Force including Active Duty and time as a Citizen-Airmen working in the Air Force Reserves and the Air National Guard."

VanKouwenberg was commissioned as a second lieutenant in May of 1984 from Officer Training School in San Antonio, Texas. He is a command pilot with more than 2,000 hours on a number of aircraft including the F-15B and B-1B. Prior to his role as 152nd COS Commander he served as 152nd AOG Director of Operations, Senior Offensive Duty Officer, and served as Dynamic Targeting Chief for Operation Odyssey Dawn. During the operation VanKouwenberg led nine coalition forces and directed strike support for downed U.S. aircraft, ensuring the successful recovery of both aviators. For his efforts, VanKouwenberg was recognized by Joint Forces Air Component Commander, Maj. Gen Margaret Woodward.

He is a graduate of Air Command and Staff College and Air War College. In addition to his military duties, VanKouwenberg has spent 25 years as a Delta Air Lines captain, flying the MD88 and MD90.

VanKouwenberg is a recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Combat Readiness Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Air and Space Campaign Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Award, and Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

VanKouwenberg currently resides in Fayetteville, New York.