101st Air & Space Operations Group receives new commander
By Capt. Jared Scott, 601st Public Affairs
/ Published June 17, 2011
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- In an Air Force hangar surrounded by friends, family and other guests, members of the 101st Air & Space Operations Group welcomed a new commander and bid farewell to another during a change of command ceremony held here June 11.
A traditional passing of flags during the ceremony symbolized the change in leadership as Col. Thomas Cucchi assumed command of the 101st AOG from Col. Scott Barberides. Presiding over the ceremony was Florida's Assistant Adjutant General and Florida Air National Guard commander, Brig. Gen. Joseph Balskus.
"Today we honor one who has served us faithfully and welcome one who promises to do the same," said General Balskus. "Colonel Barberides, you have performed superbly in your duties as commander of the 101st Air & Space Operations Group. You have formed the best relationship we have ever had with the Air Operations Center and First Air Force."
After nearly two years as the commander of the 101st AOG, Colonel Barberides will be moving to Philadelphia to take charge of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program as the Senior Aerospace Science Instructor at Lincoln High School.
Colonel Barberides served as the first commander of the 101st AOG, a Florida Air National Guard unit that provides manning for the 601st AOC to fulfill its mission of defending the homeland. The 101st AOG, formerly known as the Southeast Air Defense Sector, was officially activated July 1, 2009.
"This is a great day for the 101st AOG, the very backbone of the AOC," said Colonel Barberides. "To Colonel Cucchi, I believe you will do great things for this organization, its people and the mission."
Prior to becoming the 101st AOG commander, Colonel Cucchi served as the 601st AOC Combat Operations Division chief overseeing the AOC's operation floor and responsible for on-going air operations in the continental United States.
"I wouldn't be standing here today if it weren't for the Combat Operations Division," said Colonel Cucchi. "They took me in and taught me the AOC mission. I am truly humbled to have been selected as commander of the 101st and look forward to the opportunity to lead this great organization."
As the incoming commander, Colonel Cucchi pledged to continue to cultivate the relationship between the AOC, First Air Force, and the AOG.
"Colonel Barberides and Colonel (Randy) Spear (601st AOC commander) laid a great foundation for me to build on," said Colonel Cucchi. "Starting with that foundation, I plan to continue to work with the AOC and AOC leadership to see where the 101st can step in to allow the AOC to focus solely on the mission."
The 601st AOC, often referred to as 'America's AOC,' is responsible for detecting, deterring, defending and if necessary, defeating any aviation threat to the citizens of the continental United States and to U.S. critical infrastructure.
"America's AOC is made up of more than 500 combined active-duty, Air National Guardsmen, Reservists, Air Expeditionary Forces, joint services, DoD civil service and contractor personnel with the majority of the manpower coming from the Florida Guard's 101st Air & Space Operations Group," said Colonel Spear. "Colonel Barberides has always exemplified mission first, people always and as Colonel Cucchi assumes command of the 101st, I know he will do the same