Champagne, Saridakis Take New Leadership Roles

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Two combat veterans took on new duties as the Michigan Air National Guard's 127th Operations Group and 107th Fighter Squadron witnessed a change of command ceremony Saturday, March 10 at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Lt. Col. Douglas Champagne took command of the Operations Group and Lt. Col. Emmanuel Saridakis took command of the Fighter Squadron in a ceremony in front of a formation of the group's pilots, maintenance and support personnel and other wing officers and Airmen.

The group and squadron operate the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft.

Lt. Col. Champagne earned his commission in the U.S. Air Force in 1987, serving on active duty through June 1996. Upon leaving active duty, he immediately joined the Michigan Air National Guard, serving as a full time member of the 107th Fighter Squadron. He has served the unit in various positions, including chief of weapons, chief of scheduling and training, chief of safety, director of operations and, most recently, as the squadron commander. Champagne is a command pilot with over 3,000 flying hours in the F-16 Falcon and over 500 flying hours in the A-10. His service includes more than 500 hours of combat flying missions on six overseas deployments in support of Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Desert Calm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom. On Sept. 11, 2001, Champagne flew in the first fully armed combat air patrol over Detroit.

After accepting the flag as the 127th Operations Group commander, Champagne challenged the Airmen witnessing his stepping into a new leadership role to all be leaders.

"It's leadership that will take this group through the most turbulent times we've faced in our history," he said. "This simple act of positively influencing others will make us successful."

Champagne replaced Col. Leonard Isabelle, who is moving to a position at Joint Force Headquarters-Michigan.

Lt. Col. Saridakis replaced Champagne as 107th Fighter Squadron commander. Saridakis joined the Air National Guard in 1997, as a member of the 107th Fighter Wing in Massachusetts. He later served with the 110th Fighter Wing in Battle Creek, Mich., and the 175th Wing, Maryland. From 2006 to 2011 Saridakis served as the chief of the close attack branch at Headquarters, Air Combat Command, Joint Integration Division, responsible for enhancing the USAF's close air support, forward air controller, special operations, and other joint air-to-ground integration capabilities. Saridakis served on active duty 1989-1997, gaining his commission through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Cornell University. Saridakis earned his wings through the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) at Sheppard AFB, Texas, in 1990. He has been with the 107th Fighter Squadron since 2009.

Upon his acceptance of the 107th Fighter Squadron flag, Saridakis told the Airmen of his new command, many of whom had just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan: "Your commitment and hard work is that which will sustain our combat readiness."

The leadership changes come as the unit braces against the unknown impacts of an Air Force budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 which has called for the deletion of the A-10 aircraft at Selfridge, a base which has hosted fighter aircraft for almost 100 years. Saridakis addressed this by telling the audience of family, friends, Base Community Council members, and elected officials, "The spirit of aviation will go from one aircraft to the next ... but we cannot afford a rest, and we cannot afford to focus on things we cannot control. We must be what our Air National Guard value statement says we are: equally capable, equally proficient, and equally accessible (to the active duty force)."

With approximately 1,700 Airmen assigned, the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard is the host organization at Selfridge, flying the KC-135 Stratotanker, an aerial refueler, and the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog, which is an air-to-ground attack fighter. The Airmen at Selfridge support the Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command and the Air Force Special Operations Command. to In addition to the 127th Wing, Selfridge is home to numerous other military and federal agencies, which fly a variety of helicopters and small, light fixed-wing aircraft.

More information on the 127th Wing and Selfridge Air National Guard Base is available at www.127wg.ang.af.mil.