47th Operations Group welcomes new commander

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keira Rossman
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

47th Flying Training Wing (FTW) Airmen bid farewell to Col. James Blech, prior commander of the 47th Operations Group (OG), and welcomed Col. Joseph McCane, current commander of the 47th OG, during a change of command ceremony here, May 31, 2024. 

Col. Kevin Davidson, 47th FTW commander, presided over the ceremony, noting the pivotal role the 47th OG plays as one of the largest pilot-producing bases in the Air Force. 

“I’m excited to be able to pass the flag today from one great leader to another and even more excited to watch Team XL continue to win,” said Davidson. “It takes a team of 2,900 Airmen, civilian Airmen, and contractors to make that happen.” 

McCane comes to Laughlin AFB from Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., where he served as Special Operations Command South chief of staff since 9 July 2021. As the commander of the 47th OG, he now oversees training for U.S. Air Force and allied nation pilots under Laughlin’s Undergraduate Pilot Training Program. The 47th OG provides management, control, standardization and evaluation of all aspects of flying training operations and airfield management at Laughlin. 

 

“To the amazing men and women of the 47th OG, your resilience, dedication, hard work, and unwavering commitment to our mission is what makes this group exceptional,” said McCane. “I would love to stand up here today and say that we are done dealing with the turbulence of change, but I can't. Great Power Competition is once again forcing us to change. Over the next couple of years, we will lead this group together through many different changes and challenges, include the sunsetting of one aircraft and onboarding of another. Throughout all of this, I am confident that this group will continue to rise to the occasion, be agile, flexible and creative as we face these new challenges." 

The 47th OG consists of four flying training squadrons, an operations support squadron and a student squadron. Beginning with the first Undergraduate Pilot Training class in the mid-1950s, silver wings have been pinned on nearly 21,000 pilots. Currently, the base uses the T-6A Texan II, T-38C Talon and the T-1A Jayhawk to teach American and allied nation’s pilots to fly. However, the squadron will soon face the Air Force’s proposal to recapitalize the T-38C Talon flight training program at Laughlin with the T-7A Red Hawk aircraft. 

“We need leaders at all levels, from the youngest Airman to your 'old’ group commander, to forge forward and rise to the occasion,” said McCane. “Together, we will excel and continue to be AETC’s premier training organization.” 

Blech, who will be assuming command as the wing commander at Columbus Air Force Base, served as commander of 47th OG since 13 July, 2022. 

“I know that this work is not easy,” said Blech when addressing the 47th OG. “Five years from now we might not recognize what we do day to day. I just need you to know that what you do here matters. Every single pilot that you graduate here could be in combat within the next year. Every second you spend with them, every time you do an extra check on their flight gear, every time you go out and repair an antenna on this airfield after a rainstorm—every bit of it matters. You’ve produced, as a team, approximately 100 additional pilots this year than what you did last year. Thats almost two squadrons of pilots out there. Continue to lead through change, don’t fear novel solutions to complex problems, identify what you value and hold onto it, find your righteous cause and live for it, build trust with all those around you relentlessly, seek accountability, and finally, do it with some swagger. You’re as good if not better than the headlines say.”