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KAFB welcomes new 81st Training Wing commander

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 4:59 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Build off the foundation set by his predecessor, that’s what Col. William Hunter plans to do as the incoming commander of the 81st Training Wing at Keesler Air Force Base.

The pomp and circumstance of Thursday’s change of command ceremony paid homage to outgoing commander Col. Heather Blackwell after her two years in the pilot’s seat.

Her anthem was a simple phrase that got her and the 12,000 airman and civilians on the base through a global pandemic and a hyperactive 2020 hurricane season.

“If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times, and every time I’ve said it, I mean it; you got this,” said Blackwell. “You got this, and I’m proud of you.”

The ceremonial precision also ushers in the new commander Hunter, an Air Force veteran who has deep ties to Keesler.

“My son actually graduated from here two years ago, so we feel a strong kinship to this Keesler community,” Hunter said. “I’m excited. I’m prior enlisted. I came here in 1987 and came through the enlisted ranks.”

He comes to Keesler after serving at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

“We’re gonna build on the foundation that Heather’s already established, but it’s gonna be our people, our mission, the installation and the community,” said Hunter. “Coming out of COVID, reestablishing those connections with the community is going to be a big target as well.”

Hunter wants to set the KAFB bar of success even higher.

“I grew up playing sports, so I’m super competitive, said Hunter. “I’m going to try and make Keesler the best installation in the Air Force, so we’re gonna get after it.”

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