WESTFIELD – Col. Tom “Sling” Bladen is the new commander of the Barnes Air National Guard Base.
The Base is home to the 104th Fighter Wing where Bladen served as vice commander since last July. He assumed command June 8 from Col. Peter T. Green III who has been promoted to brigadier general and is now the assistant adjutant general of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.
The ceremony was hosted live on the Fighter Wing’s Facebook page with limited family allowed on site due to COVID-19.
Bladen thanked those in attendance, including Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. and state Sen. John C. Velis. “You could not ask for two better partners,” Bladen said.
Bladen noted that the 104th has often been called upon during trying times, including during the pandemic and recent protests across the country.
“The men and women of the 104th defend America and protect Americans,” he said, “not just as bystanders but as an integral part.”
He said their mission is 24/7 in defense of the nation and he is “humbled, appreciative and excited to be a part of it.”
Bladen previously served as the 104th operations group commander and 104th inspector general. He entered the Air Force after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1997 with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering and then earned his pilot wings at Columbus AFB in 1999. His aviation career includes more than 2,500 flying hours with combat experience over Iraq while enforcing the southern no-fly zone.
Green served as the wing commander since August 2018 and previously served as the vice commander, maintenance group commander, and security forces commander. In this role as wing commander, he ensured mission readiness to effectively support the alert homeland defense, domestic operations, emergency support to state partner agencies, and the expeditionary deployment missions.
During his tenure, he provided critical support to more than 1,000 Airmen and their families. Stepping down from the 104th and taking on a bigger role was a bittersweet moment for Green.
“We dealt with a lot of long, hard days as a team,” he said, addressing his fellow Barnestormers. “We also accomplished a lot. Those memories are what I will take away as I leave the Wing, my second home.”
Green said joining the 104th was one of “the best decisions” of his life. He encouraged his fellow airmen to “take advantage of every opportunity” the Air National Guard offers.
“Find ways to improve the mission and quality of life,” he said. “If you give to the Wing, it will give back.”