Col. Chad Hartman relinquished command to Col. Katharine Barber as 16th Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh served as the presiding officer via video teleconference from San Antonio, Texas, with immediate family members and a small handful of senior leadership in attendance at Patrick AFB’s Sharkatorium.
An Air Force change of command ceremony is steeped in history and represents the formal transfer of authority and responsibility from one leader to another. It is also a way to recognize the achievements of an outgoing commander as well as introduce the new commander to the people he or she will be leading.
Typically, a change of command has troop formations, distinguished visitors and invited guests in attendance. However, due to social distancing requirements in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, AFTAC employed modern technology to transmit the ceremony via video chat and teleconference. Several hundred Airmen, family, friends and alumni tuned in to witness the virtual passing of the guidon.
Hartman took command of AFTAC in June 2018, just two months after the center underwent a major structure reorganization. During his tenure, he oversaw a $2 billion upgrade of AFTAC’s two maritime assets, USNS Howard O. Lorenzen and USNS Invincible; launched a revolutionary algorithmic warfare campaign; drove the relocation and hardening of AFTAC’s nuclear alert center that resolved a 34-year mission gap; and managed a 99 percent readiness level for 3,600 sensors dispersed on every continent and in every domain.
Prior to the change of command portion of the ceremony, Haugh presented the Legion of Merit to Hartman for “exceptionally meritorious conduct and superior initiative, outstanding leadership and exemplary ability.” The prestigious medal is presented to members of the Armed Forces who hold key non-combat positions of great responsibility and whose conduct is above reproach.
“Last fall, when a Russian missile launch resulted in the dispersal of nuclear materials, AFTAC was the first to recognize the explosion and synchronized the analytical effort to investigate and confirm the incident,” said Haugh. “Chad expertly briefed the President, Congress and the Secretary of the Air Force and ultimately shaped the United States’ strategic response and enabled the State Department to expose Russia’s harmful behavior to partners across the region.”
Haugh added, “Colonel Hartman has been a critical voice in shaping how we think about global competition and capability integration across the joint force, and I know our leadership team at 16th Air Force will miss his discerning insights.”
When it was time for Hartman to make his remarks, the outgoing commander quickly shifted the focus away from himself to shine the spotlight on the men and women who execute AFTAC’s global mission.
“Team AFTAC, you empowered our nation and took the necessary steps to guard against our nation’s most dangerous threats – weapons of mass destruction,” Hartman said. Throughout my tenure, you sustained and operated the Air Force’s only blue water fleet of ships, relocated an entire detachment into Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, operated and modernized the Air Force’s oldest aircraft fleet, and masterfully executed national surveillance operations in every domain – air, sea, land, space and cyber.”
The outgoing commander thanked the many mission partners who contribute to AFTAC’s global mission and operate the center’s massive network of national laboratories.
He also recognized dozens on his immediate staff and senior leadership team for “unleashing 72 years of innovative culture, tackling wicked problems, ensuring no nuclear surprises, mastering the digital environment, and most importantly, optimizing AFTAC’s greatest asset – our people.”
Hartman is transferring to Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum, the Netherlands, to be the Chief of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.
Barber, a career intelligence officer, comes to AFTAC after serving as the commander of the National Air and Space Intelligence Center’s Space, Missiles and Forces Intelligence Group at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. She has commanded at both the squadron and group levels, and from July 2011 to June 2013, she served as the Senior Duty Officer in the White House Situation Room.
“Colonel Hartman has set AFTAC on a dynamic course and I intend to continue the legacy of conquering wicked problems for our nation,” she said. “This organization is filled with creative people who have mastered the complexities we face, and I can’t think of a better place to be in the year 2020, which is the most unique year I have ever experienced! Thank you, General Haugh, for your trust in me to command this venerable institution.”
After the guidon was passed from one commander to another, the Numbered Air Force commander took a moment to welcome Barber to her new position.
“AFTAC is gaining a world-class leader and commander today,” Haugh said. “Kate, I look forward to your leadership as you take command, and I can’t wait to watch the incredible Airmen of AFTAC as you continue to advance the future of warfighting within our enterprise and within the Air Force. Your leaders, our service, and the nation are behind you.”
As the Department of Defense’s sole nuclear treaty monitoring center, AFTAC provides direct technical, analytical and evaluative support to the International Atomic Energy Agency and operates and maintains the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System, the largest sensor network in the U.S. Air Force.