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Airmen, Soldiers and families packed the drill floor of Joint Force Headquarters for a Wisconsin Air National Guard state command chief change of authority ceremony, Feb. 6 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Chief Master Sgt. Gregory A. Cullen, the command chief master sergeant for the Wisconsin Air National Guard, turned over his authority to Chief Master Sgt. Thomas J. Safer. The state command chief is the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s senior Airman and advises the adjutant general on matters concerning the state’s more than 2,200 enlisted Airmen. Additionally, he maintains a rapport with the deputy adjutant general for Air and the commanders for the 115th Fighter Wing, 128th Air Refueling Wing and Volk Field.

As command chief master sergeant, Cullen oversaw four separate geographic areas within the state of Wisconsin where Airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing, 128th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Force Headquarters and Volk Field Air National Guard Base are stationed.

Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, said, “It has been my absolute privilege to have had him advising me for these four years and making what was already a wonderful Air National Guard even better.

“You’ve exceeded every expectation that I had,” Dunbar continued, “and it has been my deep honor to serve with you.”

Cullen served as the command chief for four years, and Dunbar lauded his commitment to his work and accomplishments during his tenure.

“These are the finest Airmen that our Air Force has to offer,” Dunbar said, “so Chief Cullen, mission accomplished.”

“It has been an incredible ride,” said Cullen, who recalled some of the highlights of his time as command chief. He spoke highly of his cohorts and relished the satisfaction that came with the job. “I am privileged to work with such approachable, down-to-earth and caring general officers,” he said.

Before the ceremony Cullen said what he loved most about his job was getting to know his enlisted Airmen.

“Hearing their stories gives me the most job satisfaction,” he said. “Helping them along the way in any way that I could is something I will cherish.”

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Cullen advised Safer to be approachable. “The Airmen have to know that you care and that you’ll be there for them and represent them,” he said. 

As a testament to the dedication he has shown, an emotional Cullen was bid farewell with a long round of applause from the large crowd of Airmen and Soldiers.

During the ceremony, Safer accepted the saber, which symbolizes responsibility returning from the outgoing command chief to the adjutant general, and then bestowed on the incoming command chief.

After the passing of the saber, Safer praised his fellow Airmen from the podium.

“First and foremost I have to say that I am extremely proud of the more than 2,200 men and women of the Wisconsin Air National Guard,” Safer said, “and I feel very fortunate to be associated with such an outstanding group of Airmen.”

With 33 years of experience and multiple deployments, Safer is well prepared to take on the job and address issues with Airmen readiness, training, utilization, morale, professional development and quality of life.

“I have been an Airman for nearly 34 years and I have served in the regular Air Force, the Air Force Reserves and the Air National Guard,” Safer observed. “So I understand and I am empathetic to the sacrifices you and your families make and the challenges you face on a day-to-day basis to ensure the security of our nation.”

Just like the saber, the post of command chief shall continue to maintain its edge in the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

“My philosophy has always been mission first, Airmen always,” Safer said.