173rd Fighter Wing welcomes new commander, holds Change of Command ceremony

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

A change of command ceremony marked a major transition for the 173rd Fighter Wing when Col. Jeffrey B. Edwards relinquished command to Col. Lee R. Bouma who stepped into the top post on May 15, 2022.

Bouma was selected for the position after serving as the 173rd Maintenance Group commander since June of 2021 after moving there from his prior station at the deputy commander of the mission support group.

“Col. Bouma’s leadership, capabilities and diverse experiences in the 173rd Mission Support Group, 173rd Operations Group and 173rd Maintenance Group make him the absolute right choice to lead the “Land of No Slack” at this critical time,” said Brig. Gen. Donna M. Prigmore, the commander of the Oregon Air National Guard.

His command tenure promises extensive change as the wing is slated to adopt a new airframe in 2024, the F-15EX Eagle II, and F-15C/D models are retired.

“Col. Bouma gained invaluable conversion experiences—one related to a transition from F-16s to F-15s, and the other from F-15s to C-130Hs—during his time with the Montana ANG,” said Prigmore. “Clearly his conversion experience and leadership acumen is what we need at this time as we prepare the Wing for the F-15EX.”

The heart of the change of command ceremony is the passing of the guidon, a flag representing the wing, which is passed from the outgoing commander to the new. This formal protocol shifts the authority and responsibility of the command in a single moment and finds its roots in military history.

After accepting the guidon Bouma addressed his assembled Airmen saying, “Why is it that we are here? It’s represented really, really big behind us,” he said gesturing to the nearly 50 foot tall flag draped behind the stage. “We defend America and the State of Oregon. That’s what I value and that’s what this organization provides.”

With the passing of the guidon the wing completed another tradition common to Air Force fighter wings—revealing the name of the new commander on the flagship aircraft of the fleet. Bouma, the newly minted commander, looked on as a crew chief peeled back a covering revealing a fresh stencil reading Col Lee Bouma beneath the cockpit of the iconic Heritage Jet.

Bouma is a senior pilot who has logged more than 2,000 flight hours in the F-16 B,C, and D variants, C-130 H 1,2, and 3 variants and the F-15 C and D models.

He steps into the position at a unique time in the history of the base with the first F-15 EXs scheduled to arrive in under two years, as well as one of the largest construction projects in the bases history in progress.

Bouma is also the first prior enlisted commander of the wing who originally joined the Air National Guard with the 120th Fighter Wing in Montana, completing basic training in 1997. He was commissioned in 2002 and attended undergraduate pilot training in 2004 where he was recognized as a distinguished graduate.

He joined the 173rd Fighter Wing in 2015.