148th Fighter Wing Operations Group gets new Commander

Col. Gerald Ostern (middle), Operations Group Commander relinquishes command to Col. Frank Stokes (far left), 148th Fighter Wing Commander during a change of command ceremony on February 10, 2013.  Col Brad Jackson (far right) accepted command of the Operations Group during the ceremony which was held at the 148 FW, Duluth, Minn.  (National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sarah Hayes/Released)

Col. Gerald Ostern (middle), Operations Group Commander relinquishes command to Col. Frank Stokes (far left), 148th Fighter Wing Commander during a change of command ceremony on February 10, 2013. Col Brad Jackson (far right) accepted command of the Operations Group during the ceremony which was held at the 148 FW, Duluth, Minn. (National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sarah Hayes/Released)

Col. Frank Stokes, 148th Fighter Wing Commander; Senior Master Sgt. Mark Graves, 148FW Operations Group First Sergeant; Col. Gerald Ostern, 148FW Operations Group Commander and Col. Brad Jackson participate in a change of command cereomony on 10 February 2013.  Col Gerald Ostern relinquished command of the Operations Group and Col. Brad Jackson (far right) accepted command during the ceremony which was held at the 148 FW, Duluth, Minn.  (National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sarah Hayes/Released)

Col. Frank Stokes, 148th Fighter Wing Commander; Senior Master Sgt. Mark Graves, 148FW Operations Group First Sergeant; Col. Gerald Ostern, 148FW Operations Group Commander and Col. Brad Jackson participate in a change of command cereomony on 10 February 2013. Col Gerald Ostern relinquished command of the Operations Group and Col. Brad Jackson (far right) accepted command during the ceremony which was held at the 148 FW, Duluth, Minn. (National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sarah Hayes/Released)

Col. Gerald Ostern (middle), Operations Group Commander relinquishes command to Col. Frank Stokes (far left), 148th Fighter Wing Commander during a change of command ceremony on February 10, 2013.  Col Brad Jackson (far right) accepted command of the Operations Group during the ceremony which was held at the 148 FW, Duluth, Minn.  (National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sarah Hayes/Released)

Col. Gerald Ostern (middle), Operations Group Commander relinquishes command to Col. Frank Stokes (far left), 148th Fighter Wing Commander during a change of command ceremony on February 10, 2013. Col Brad Jackson (far right) accepted command of the Operations Group during the ceremony which was held at the 148 FW, Duluth, Minn. (National Guard photo by Senior Airman Sarah Hayes/Released)

DULUTH, Minn. -- Col. Gerald R. Ostern relinquished his command of the 148th Fighter Wing's Operations Group during a change of command ceremony on Sunday, February 10th, 2013 and handed the torch on to Col. Bradley A. Jackson. As Operations Group Commander, Ostern was responsible for the combat training and deployment of aircraft, pilots and other support personnel. He has served as the commander since July 2010, and will be retiring from his distinguished military career.

During the change of command, Ostern was commended for his many distinguished achievements while serving as the Operations Group Commander. He led the 148th's major aircraft conversion from Block 25 F-16s to Block 50 F-16CMs, and helped the unit transition from a general purpose mission to being one of only two Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD/DEAD) units in the Air National Guard. Ostern also led the Operations Group to a "Mission Ready" rating during North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Alert Force Evaluations in 2010, 2011, and 2012. He has been an inspiring leader, who was able to help lead and motivate 148th members to earn the 2012 Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, 2012 National Guard Bureau Winston P. Wilson Trophy and the 2012 Air Force Association Outstanding Air National Guard Flying Unit Award.

148th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Frank Stokes said of Ostern's career: "I want to thank him for his leadership, his calming influence, and his guidance through the Block 50 conversion and the Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment."

Ostern first joined the Minnesota Air National Guard in 1980 as an Airman Basic, and served in the Avionics Maintenance Branch at the 148th Fighter Wing. He was then selected to attend the Undergraduate Navigator Training program in 1986, and flew over 400 hours in an F-4D as a Weapons Systems Officer. When the 148th converted to the F-16, Ostern attended Undergraduate Pilot Training and became qualified to fly F-16s, which he did as a traditional guardsman until 1996. He was initially hired fulltime at the wing in 1996, holding many positions within the wing; Chief of Weapons and Tactics, Chief of Standardization/Evaluation, Chief of Safety, Operations Officer for the 179th Fighter Squadron, 179th Fighter Squadron Commander and Operations Group Commander. Ostern has received countless major awards and decorations for his service.

Ostern said of the 148th Fighter Wing: "As I've gone around the world, the reason why we can consider, and others consider us better than most is the great work effort that we have, along with the great values of everyone on this base. That's what makes this place great."

Col. Jackson joined the Minnesota Air National Guard in 1981 as a member of the Photo Processing section. In 1986, he was selected to attend Undergraduate Pilot Training and flew the F-4D until the 148th Fighter Wing converted to the F-16 in 1990. In 1990, Jackson attended conversion training in Kansas and became a qualified F-16 pilot. Jackson has held many positions during his tenure at the wing; Detachment one Operations Officer (Tyndall AFB, Fla.), Detachment one Commander (Tyndall AFB, Fla.), Chief of Standardization/Evaluation, Weapons and Tactics Officer, Training Officer, Operations Support Flight Commander, Maintenance Squadron Commander and Operations Group Commander.

Being the Operations Group Commander was just the next "attainable goal", said Jackson. "As a young 2nd Lt. I just wanted to be a respected pilot in the jet. As your world gets a little larger, you are able to reach a little higher and I think we all try to progress upwards in our careers. That's what makes this a great organization."

Col. Jackson looks forward to his new command, saying, "I appreciate the faith that's being put in me; to all of you, I look forward to working with you."

Besides having similar careers, Jackson and Ostern have been good friends for over 40 years. "He exposed me to the opportunities at the 148th Fighter Wing when his dad was a member, said Jackson. Without that I probably wouldn't be here today."