JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --
Col. Raed Gyekis became the new commander of the 225th Air Defense Group during an assumption of command ceremony at the Western Air Defense Sector, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., September 13, 2020.
Brig.General Gent Welsh, Washington Air National Guard commander, was the presiding officer for the ceremony. Gyekis replaces Col. Scott C. Humphrey, who transitioned to become the Title 10 commander of the Western Air Defense Sector.
The ceremony took place outside of the WADS building in order to ensure social distancing practices were maintained. The scene looked very foggy but was in fact smog transferred from Oregon and California wildfires by atmospheric circulation. “At least it’s a lot less smoky,” said Welsh as he began his speech. “Yesterday was like the smokiest fire camp I’ve ever been in but I wasn’t in a fire camp.”
This observance was during a historic time for WADS. In addition to having members always inside, continually tracking aerial threats, some WADS members have been on orders since the start of the COVID outbreak helping with COVID-19 contact tracing and foodbank support. This amidst dozens activated in June in support to civil authorities for civil disturbances throughout the western region of Washington State. There are also WADS members currently activated to fight wildland fires, assist with wildland fire search and rescue and many more WADS members trained and ready to help. The smoky backdrop was a reminder to all members that they could be needed for fire response at any moment.
Welsh made note of these many challenges facing the unit. “We are living in uncertain times, both with threats internally such as civil unrest and global pandemic, but with new threats from old and new adversaries.” He also highlighted the unique mission of the WADS and said, “Outside of a small command post function at Fairchild Air Force Base there is no other organization in the Washington Air National Guard that is on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There is no other organization in this state that gets up to work every day mentally, physically, and spiritually prepared for the worst day in your life.”
Welsh also described the way forward for WADS. “The new demands on this organization will be to innovate and create opportunities under the Joint All Domain Command and Control concept,” he said. “You will have to switch from the defensive and reactionary mindset of the past 60 years to an offensive and credible deterrence mindset to be decisive in future conflict.”
Before transferring the guidon, an emblematic gesture signifying the official passing of command, Welsh described Gyekis’ qualifications saying, “he’s been to combat, he’s led in combat, he’s seen the absolute horror that is combat. And given this experience he knows how to build effective teams to take the fight to the enemy. He knows how to build people who win.”
After assuming command, Gyekis addressed the members of the WADS. “While 9/11 was nearly two decades behind us now, in many ways we have been slow to shift our eyes towards future conflicts,” he said. “Many of the economic, political, cultural, environmental and military bedrock assumptions that we’ve taken for granted for the past several decades are shifting dramatically under our feet.”
Gyekis also explained his vision of the future of WADS, saying “We are in the midst of a revolution of military technology and strategy. Today’s WADS team is pioneering efforts to shape the Air Battle Management System and the larger Joint All Domain Command & Control systems. This visionary team will help shape the way we deter our adversaries from future armed conflict, and when that fails, shorten the kill chains to dominate them on future battlefields and protect America.”
In the final part of his address to the unit, Gyekis said, “I am humbled and excited to join this team today. I can promise you Bigfoot, we will not stand by idly. We will drive change.”
Gyekis received his commission from the University of Washington in 1997. He served 10 years in the active duty United States Army as an aviation officer flying the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, prior to joining the Washington Air National Guard in 2007. He has flown combat missions in support of Operation Joint Guardian, Operation Iraqi Freedom 1, and Operation Enduring Freedom. He has held numerous command positions in the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron (Tactical Air Control Party) before being assigned to the 194th Mission Support Group.
Gyekis is a helicopter pilot with more than 2,400 flying hours. Prior to his current assignment, Colonel Gyekis served as the Commander, 194th Mission Support Group, Washington Air National Guard, Camp Murray, Washington.