177th Fighter Wing Change of Command

Col. Kerry M. Gentry, former 177th Fighter Wing commander, salutes his Airmen for one last time as commander after a change of command ceremony March 8, 2015 at Atlantic City Air National Guard Base, N.J.  Col. John R. DiDonna, Jr., former 177th Fighter Wing vice commander, took over as the new wing commander. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Shane S. Karp/Released)

Col. Kerry M. Gentry, former 177th Fighter Wing commander, salutes his Airmen for one last time as commander after a change of command ceremony March 8, 2015 at Atlantic City Air National Guard Base, N.J. Col. John R. DiDonna, Jr., former 177th Fighter Wing vice commander, took over as the new wing commander. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Shane S. Karp/Released)

Col. John R. DiDonna, Jr., center, accepts command of the 177th Fighter Wing from Brig. Gen. Robert C. Bolton, left, commander of the New Jersey Air National Guard, during a change of command ceremony March 8, 2015 at Atlantic City Air National Guard Base, N.J. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Amber Powell/Released)

Col. John R. DiDonna, Jr., center, accepts command of the 177th Fighter Wing from Brig. Gen. Robert C. Bolton, left, commander of the New Jersey Air National Guard, during a change of command ceremony March 8, 2015 at Atlantic City Air National Guard Base, N.J. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Amber Powell/Released)

Atlantic City Air National Guard Base, New Jersey -- Members of the 177th Fighter Wing gathered in the main hangar to take part in a change of command ceremony here on March 8.

The event symbolized the passing of the torch from Col. Kerry M. Gentry, 177th Fighter Wing commander since March 2012, to the new commander of the 177th Fighter Wing, Col. John R. DiDonna, Jr., who served as vice commander of the 177FW since March 2013.

The ceremony signifies the end of an illustrious Air Force career for Gentry, who served since 1987 and accumulated more than 3,000 flight hours in the F-16 Fighting Falcon, including five combat deployments.

"What a phenomenal three years," said Gentry of his time as commander. "I'm proud to have served with you; I'm proud to have served for you."

Some of those in attendance at the ceremony were local elected representatives, military dignitaries from the Army, Coast Guard, and Air Force, family members, Airmen of the 177th Fighter Wing, and three most recent generations of 177th Fighter Wing commanders.

"If you look up the definition of leadership, warrior, professionalism, family man ... it's Col. Gentry," said Brig. Gen. Robert C. Bolton, current commander of the New Jersey Air National Guard and former 177th Fighter Wing commander.

DiDonna, who joined the 177FW in March of 2003, had previously served as 119th Fighter Squadron commander, 177FW Operations Group commander, and 177FW vice commander before taking over as wing commander.

"I've had the pleasure of serving with you since 2002," Gentry said to DiDonna, "I've seen what you can do, I know what you can do ... you won't even feel the rudder shift when the flight controls get handed over to you."

The confidence in the new commander's ability to lead was also shared by Bolton. "Col. DiDonna is going to learn from Col. Gentry's experience and raise this wing to another level," said Bolton.

DiDonna closed by saying, "It's a tremendous privilege to stand here before you, and serve with you, and I will do my very best each and every day to serve you admirably, and with honor."