Change Of Command At Air National Guard Base

And with a salute, Colonel Joe Spraggins relinquishes his command of the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport to Lieutenant Colonel Russell Madderra.

"I can't tell you how much it means for y'all to have allowed me to be a part of your life. Each of you have touched me in more ways than you'll ever know," said Col. Spraggins.

Spraggins now has a new role as director of the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency.

And although it will be pretty tough to leave the center, he has faith in new commander Lieutenant Colonel Russell Madderra.

"The profession of arms is an ever changing career. But one that cannot allow a second place finish. It's not a race, but a journey - one that can take us a long way," said Lt. Col. Madderra.

"I came here as a captain, and that's a long time and I tell you, I put a lot of heart in this place and it meant a lot to me. This whole base means a lot to me and it always will, and I wanted to come here. I wanted to come here long before I ever got here and I wanted to be a part of it, so it was something to have a dream come true," said Col. Spraggins.

So, Saturday afternoon, one dream is fulfilled, another is just beginning, not only for one man, but for the Mississippi National Guard.

"As the new commander with 16 years experience here on installation, what I'd like to do is to continue of course the Hurricane Katrina recovery operations, then we have some major construction issues going on here. As soon as funding comes down from Congress,we will be able to implement our reconstruction plans, and to further the growth and the mission of the combat readiness training center," said Madderra.

Lt. Col. Madderra is an Alabama native, and married with three children.

As for Colonel Spraggins, he says his military career is not over yet. He is the new chief of staff for the Tennessee Air National Guard.