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MacDill Air Force Base Welcomes New Commander

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Sam Barrett, the 18th Air Force commander, salutes Col. Benjamin Jonsson, assuming 6th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) commander, during an assumption of command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Aug. 4, 2020.
Senior Airman Ryan C. Grossklag
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U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Sam Barrett, the 18th Air Force commander, salutes Col. Benjamin Jonsson, assuming 6th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) commander, during an assumption of command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Aug. 4, 2020.

MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa has a new leader. Col. Benjamin R. Jonsson assumed command of the 6th Air Refueling Wing Tuesday during a socially-distanced ceremony.  

About 50 service members, community leaders and Jonsson’s family were in attendance, a much smaller crowd than normally would have been present for a change-of-command event. They all wore masks, were screened for coronavirus symptoms upon entry and spread out in an auditorium on the base.

U.S. Air Force Col. Benjamin Jonsson, assuming 6th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) commander, walks with his wife Heather at the 6th ARW assumption of command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Aug. 4, 2020.
Credit Senior Airman Ryan C. Grossklag / U.S. Air Force
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U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force Col. Benjamin Jonsson, assuming 6th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) commander, walks with his wife Heather at the 6th ARW assumption of command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Aug. 4, 2020.

Jonsson assumed command with a special flag ceremony and joined the crowd in a rendition of the U.S. Air Force song, often referred to as “Wild Blue Yonder.”

As base commander, Jonsson is responsible for MacDill’s 19,900 employees and their families.

He comes to Tampa from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and takes over as the community continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

There are heightened safety precautions at the base and many service members still working from home. Jonsson addressed his new team in a brief speech.

“To the men and women of the 6th Air Refueling Wing, you, your families and those that stand behind you are what make air power so feared and revered by our adversaries,” he said. “Thank you for your service and your commitment, I look forward to serving together.”

Jonsson also reached out to community leaders who work with MacDill, like Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, who attended the ceremony.

“Your generosity, your support and your partnership are clearly what make this wing, this base, so special,” he said. “I look forward to getting to know you and being part of this world-class partnership.”

Jonsson replaces Col. Steve Snelson, who stepped down in May after two years and now commands an air wing in Maryland responsible for transporting the President on Air Force One.

Jonsson commended Vice Commander Col. Benjamin S. Robins, who took over commanding duties in the months after Snelson left, for his work maintaining operations at the base during this uncertain time.