AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. — Fairchild Air Force Base is under new leadership. Col. Cassius Bentley has assumed command over the base. He is taking over for Col. Derek Salmi.

Col. Bentley has been in the Air Force for 22 years. He comes from England where he served as the vice commander for Royal Air Force Mildenhall. The pilot has more than 4,400 flying hours on four different types of planes.

The change of command ceremony was different. Normally, they have it in an aircraft hangar with a room full of airmen. Today, they held it in the Red Morgan Community Center on base. Inside, fewer than 50 people were in the room, everyone wore masks and the ceremony was live streamed.

Despite the changes, the Air Force wanted to keep the traditional change of command ceremony alive. An airman still sang the National Anthem, the Air Force song was played and salutes were given to both colonels.

“I am humbled to serve as your next commander,” said Col. Bentley. “I look forward getting to know you and working for you as we continue to live out what those big hangars proudly state — global reach for America and tanker pride.”

Col. Bentley will lead about 11,000 men and women to success and navigate them through the pandemic. Base commanders typically serve two year terms.

“My predecessor, Colonel Salmi, set up some great processes in place and so we’re continuing to do the same thing and be a lockstep with the state of Washington and their protocols and rules to battle the pandemic,” Col. Bentley explained.

Col. Salmi will head to Washington D.C. where he will work in the Pentagon.

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