Shortly after Col. Michael Hough officially took command of the 30th Space Wing during a ceremony Friday morning at Vandenberg Air Force Base, he walked to a microphone and looked out at the hundreds of audience members.
Reality apparently set in quickly.
“I don’t think there’s any going back at this point,” he said with a short laugh.
Indeed, moving forward was the overarching theme of the ceremony, which was highlighted by Hough formally receiving command of the 30th Space Wing from Col. J. Christopher Moss, who had been the Wing’s commander since July 2015. The change of power was done using symbolic traditions — Moss passing a flag to Hough in front of the airmen who make up the Wing — that date back to the 18th century.
Moss, who is retiring from the Air Force, told Hough that serving as commander of the 30th Space Wing was the experience of a lifetime and that he is confident Hough will be able to handle all that the job entails.
“It just makes me happy to think of Team V under your leadership,” Moss said during the ceremony, which was attended by civic leaders from Lompoc, Santa Maria and the Santa Ynez Valley, among other guests and military leaders.
That sentiment was shared by Lt. Gen. David Buck, the commander of the 14th Air Force at VAFB and the man who tabbed Hough for the position.
Buck described Hough as humble, credible and approachable — “all the things we covet in our senior leaders.”
“We’re excited to have Team Hough as the newest addition to our family,” he said.
Hough didn’t spend much time talking at Friday’s 45-minute ceremony, which was hit with light drizzles near the end, but it didn’t take long for him to give his first orders as commander.
While thanking his mentors, friends and family members who have supported him throughout his Air Force career, he became emotional when he got to his late mother.
“I wish mom were here,” he said before choking up and turning away from the microphone.
After pausing to gather himself, he said he missed her. Then he turned his attention to the airmen in the audience.
“If you all will allow me to wag my finger at you so early in my tenure: If you’re fortunate enough to have your parents still with you, give them a call,” he said. “Tell them that you love them.”
While much of the ceremony focused on the future, the speakers also looked back on the past couple years as they thanked Moss for his service.
During Moss’s tenure as commander, the “Team V” wing was responsible for 16 successful launches, the first West Coast boost-back landing, the transition of the Western Range, the installation of a massive solar farm, and the 30th Space Wing received several Air Force awards.
Buck said one of the experiences that he believed most captured Moss’ leadership began with a phone call on Sept. 17, 2016. Buck said Moss was calling to tell him that a fire had started on base, but Moss assured Buck that the Wing would get it under control.
“This event turned into the largest series of fires in Vandenberg Air Force Base history,” Buck said, noting that more than 12,000 acres burned over nine days in five separate fires.
“I knew we had a challenge when I saw helicopters flying precariously low to dip water out of the base swimming pools,” Buck added. “They did what they had to do, and all they did was they saved this base. They saved Vandenberg, a national treasure.”
Buck commended Moss for his leadership during those crises, as well as a later incident involving massive floods and mudslides on base.
After receiving phone calls from Moss about those incidents, Buck said he changed his own habits.
“Shortly thereafter I received a third call from Col. Moss,” he said. “This time Stella [Buck's wife] answered the phone. She told me, ‘It’s (Moss).’ I paused for a second and I said, ‘Just tell him I’m not here.’
“I stopped taking phone calls from Col. Moss after that,” he said, smiling.
Moss thanked the airmen in attendance for all their hard work under his stewardship. He said the past two years for him and his wife have been exhilarating, tiring, humbling, fun, terrifying, challenging, rewarding “and absolutely fantastic.”
“It has been far and away the greatest privilege of our Air Force career to be part of Team V and to serve alongside each and every one of you,” he said. “We’re gonna miss this place very, very much, but we’re also unbelievably excited for all the great things that are sure to come under Col. Hough.”
Hough concluded his remarks by noting that he was ready to get going.
“I look forward to working with you and getting to know each and every one of you in the coming weeks and months,” he said. “I’m proud to be part of Team V and the 30th Space Wing.
“Let’s get to work,” he added. “Go Hawks.”