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NEWS | April 21, 2020

9 AETF-L Welcomes New Commander through Virtual Ceremony

By Capt. Lauren Hill 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force-Levant Public Affairs

Due to current guidelines to mitigate impacts from COVID-19, the 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force-Levant held a virtual change of command ceremony as Brig. Gen. Kenneth P. Ekman assumed command from Maj. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich on April 20, 2020.

Service members at units located across the Middle East dialed into a central video teleconference line as a means to preserve military tradition, while complying with current health and safety guidelines set forth by the Department of Defense and Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Even in uncertain times, the tradition and continuity of the military remains strong,” Grynkewich said as he stood in a conference room with only a handful of joint, coalition service members. The majority of his audience listened in from more than 20 remote locations.

In addition to commanding the 9 AETF-L for the past year, Grynkewich was dual-hatted as the deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. He thanked commanders and members from both organizations and reiterated the importance of fighting as a team now more than ever.

“No matter how good we are as Airmen, we don’t go to war alone. We go as a joint force and with coalition partners and allies,” Grynkewich said. “No one has a monopoly on good ideas or how to approach a problem. The unique strengths and perspectives of all our services and nations make us the winning team we are.”

Grynkewich relinquished command to Ekman, who dialed in from his quarters on base to remain in compliance with a self-quarantine after flying in from the U.S.

“I sincerely appreciate everyone’s efforts to preserve our time-honored traditions while doing what it takes to keep Airmen healthy,” Ekman said. “Command in combat is truly special. I am committed to helping the Airmen of the 9 AETF-L rise to every challenge issued to them by Air Forces Central Command, U.S. Central Command, and our nation.”

Ekman also remarked on the importance of joint warfighting and working with our host nations.

“How we operate and conduct ourselves profoundly influences our partners and host nations,” Ekman said. “America succeeds as a part of coalitions, and coalitions are based on mutual trust and respect. While our named operations and bases come and go, our hosts remain. They will remember us not for what we say or achieve, but for how we treat them and for the values we represent.”

Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, served as the presiding official for the ceremony as he dialed in from Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

The 9 AETF-L was created in 2015 by Air Forces Central Command to provide a coherent presentation of Airpower to CJTF-OIR by delivering precision intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, strike, mobility, combat support and air advising capabilities that allow the coalition and partner forces to ensure the lasting defeat of Daesh.

The task force also commands approximately 5,000 Airmen assigned to the 321st, 332nd and 386th Air Expeditionary Wings.