By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Col. Eries Mentzer took command of Maxwell Air Force Base’s 42nd Air Base Wing Monday, replacing Col. Patrick Carley.
Lt. Gen. James Hecker, commander and president of Air University, presided over the change of command ceremony and told Mentzer she had “big shoes to fill.”
“You are obviously qualified to do this job, and we are happy, enthusiastic and optimistic about you arriving here,” Hecker said. “We look forward to being your wingmen along this journey.”
Mentzer is coming to Maxwell from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C. where she served as both the vice commander and Air Force commander.
The commander of the 42nd Air Base Wing functions much like the mayor of Maxwell Air Force Base, taking care of the functionality of the base and working as a liaison with the surrounding community.
Mentzer becomes the first black woman to serve in the role and she mentioned finding inspiration in Montgomery civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks.
“A former Maxwell Air Force Base seamstress, she challenged the status quo and sparked a movement that changed our nation for the better,” she said. “Ms. Parks’ competence, confidence, compassion and courage motivate me to drive change that is more inclusive and reflective of the Airmen who serve today.”
Mentzer also mentioned the challenge of commanding an air base during a pandemic.
“From the day we join the Air Force, we train to serve our nation during a time of war,” Mentzer said. “Today’s adversary is COVID. Now, more than ever, the health and resilience of all of us depends on each of us. My guidance is simple: Just do right. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, ‘Right may not be easy, it might not be expedient, but it will satisfy the soul. You know what is right, just do right.’”
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, who represents Maxwell Air Force Base and much of the surrounding community, congratulated Mentzer on the new command and welcomed her to Montgomery.
“Congratulations and thank your for your service to this county,” Roby tweeted.
Col. Mentzer was formally installed today as the new commander of the 42nd Air Base Wing at @MaxwellAFB, making history as she is the first Black woman to serve in this position. Congratulations, & thank you for your leadership & service to this country! https://t.co/D5YHEQxRVG
— Rep. Martha Roby (@RepMarthaRoby) August 24, 2020
Mentzer’s command comes at a pivotal time for Maxwell and Montgomery. Recent media reports have documented how some officers avoid bringing their families with them when stationed on base to avoid the struggling Montgomery school system. Local and state legislative efforts have sought to allay those problems, but officials have quietly expressed concerns that the situation could impact Maxwell’s standing during the next round of base realignment and closure.