Joe Foss Field, S.D. --
Joe Foss Field Airmen and guests welcomed the new commander during a change of command ceremony as Col. Brandon Eskam took command of the 114th Fighter Wing from Col. Mark Morrell here, Jan. 8, 2023.
U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. Jordan Hohenstein, 114th Fighter Wing public affairs, led the event as Master of Ceremonies. The ceremony began with the singing of the national anthem by Sara Hilmoe, followed by the invocation by Maj. Joel Higgins, 114th Fighter Wing chaplain.
Maj. Gen. Jeff Marlette, The Adjutant General, South Dakota National Guard, spoke to the audience, on the importance of each Airman in the room and their impact to the organization. He then recognized the achievements and milestones the wing accumulated under Morrell’s command.
“It’s amazing what we can accomplish together when we set our minds and our hearts to it,” said Marlette. “And I hope you feel as I do that it is an absolute honor and privilege to wear this uniform.”
Brig. Gen. Greg Lair, South Dakota Assistant Adjutant General for Air, presided over the ceremony and spoke directly to Eskam about his experience and past accomplishments as he soon prepared to take on the title of commander.
“With all of the skills you have acquired, you are uniquely suited and ready to take on this challenge,” said Lair. “My charge for you is to leave the wing slightly better than you found it and continue to lead and plant new seeds while harvesting and cultivating the seeds that Col. Morrell has planted.”
As the outgoing Commander of the 114th Fighter Wing, Col. Mark Morrell oversaw the mission readiness of nearly 1,100 Airmen and the wing’s F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet since September, 2019.
Morrell stated how the day was an exceptionally proud one for the 114th Lobos and spoke directly to his family, thanking them for their support during his command. In an emotion filled speech directed toward his daughters, Morrell reflected on a lesson he had recently taught to college students about leadership.
"The first thing I told them was to figure out what in their life is worth fighting for," said Morrell. "In an age where it’s popular to be selfish and hyper individualistic, it is essential to know what and especially who is worth fighting for. Reagan, Madison, Edin - you are worth fighting for."
A passing of the command’s colors was witnessed by those in attendance as a symbol of the transfer of authority and responsibility from the outgoing commander to the incoming one. The formal act of the wing guidon consistently in someone’s hands signifies the wing and its Airmen are never without official leadership. Eskam received the guidon, symbolizing an official change of command.
Eskam spoke to the audience for the first time as the 114th Fighter Wing commander about service, community and family.
"When the original documents for this nation were drafted they stated this would be a nation of the people, by the people and for them," said Eskam. "That is a perfect description of how the South Dakota Air National Guard works."
Eskam emphasized the thing motivating each of the Airmen in the room is the community they serve and the families they love.
"It’s what we love that motivates us to work, to struggle and to overcome," said Eskam. "We fight for each other."
Eskam takes command of the 114th Fighter Wing as the wing prepares for a Unit Effectiveness Inspection and large-scale readiness exercise in 2023.
As wing commander, Eskam is responsible for the only fighter wing in the state of South Dakota as well as the safety and wellbeing of nearly 1,100 Airmen and civilian base personnel.
The primary mission of the 114th FW is to deploy worldwide and execute directed tactical fighter sorties to destroy enemy forces, supplies, equipment, communications systems and installations with conventional weapons, or when directed by the Governor to protect life and property, preserve peace, order and public safety.