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U.S. Air Force's only reserve AWACS unit receives a new commander

Lt. Col. Brent Vander Pol (right) receives the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron guidon from presiding officer, Col. Jeffrey McGalliard, 513th Air Control Group Commander in a change of command ceremony here April 5.   Vander Pol now commands the Air Force’s only reserve Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) squadron.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Caleb Wanzer)

Lt. Col. Brent Vander Pol (right) receives the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron guidon from presiding officer, Col. Jeffrey McGalliard, 513th Air Control Group Commander in a change of command ceremony here April 5. Vander Pol now commands the Air Force’s only reserve Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Caleb Wanzer)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Lt. Col. Brent Vander Pol assumed command of the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, the Air Force's only reserve Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) squadron, in an April 5 change of command ceremony presided by 513th Air Control Group Commander, Col. Jeffrey McGalliard.

Vander Pol comes to the 970th AACS from the 513th Operations Support Flight, where he served as the director of operations. He first came to the 513th Air Control Group in 2003 and has held various positions including Instructor Pilot and Standardization and Evaluation Chief.

"The 970th is not a building, a patch or a sign on the wall," Vander Pol said. "It's a collection of great people who are willing to sacrifice their time for something greater than themselves."

He succeeds Lt. Col. Matthew Conrad, who took command of the 970th AACS in October 3, 2009. In his farewell remarks during the ceremony, Conrad spoke of the importance of each Airman within the squadron.

"Every individual in the 970th has their own story and set of motivations," Conrad said. "As the commander, getting to know my folks and watching them make a difference has truly been one of the most satisfying privileges."

As commander of the 970th AACS, Vander Pol heads up the only AWACS squadron in the Air Force Reserve. The squadron has played a role in operations since it's stand-up in 1996, most recently Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

Vander Pol graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1989 and is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flight hours, mostly in the E-3 Sentry. In his civilian occupation, he is a pilot with United Airlines and has flown over 10,000 hours in the Boeing 737 and 777 aircraft.

"You take care of the people of the unit, and the people will take care of the mission," McGalliard said to Vander Pol during the ceremony. "I have faith in you to successfully lead this squadron into the future."