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Decker takes command of 123rd Mission Support Group

Col. Mary Decker accepts the 123rd Mission Support Group guidon from Col. David Mounkes, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, as she assumes command of the group during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 5, 2019. Decker replaces Col. Patrick Pritchard, who has been named vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Dale Greer)

Col. Mary Decker accepts the 123rd Mission Support Group guidon from Col. David Mounkes, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, as she assumes command of the group during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 5, 2019. Decker replaces Col. Patrick Pritchard, who has been named vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Dale Greer)

Col. Mary Decker receives her first salute as she takes command of the 123rd Mission Support Group during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 5, 2019. Decker replaces Col. Patrick Pritchard, who has been named vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Dale Greer)

Col. Mary Decker receives her first salute as she takes command of the 123rd Mission Support Group during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 5, 2019. Decker replaces Col. Patrick Pritchard, who has been named vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Dale Greer)

Col. Mary Decker, commander of the 123rd Mission Support Group, speaks to audience members at an MSG change-of-command ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 5, 2019. Decker is replacing Col. Patrick Pritchard, who has been named vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Col. Mary Decker, commander of the 123rd Mission Support Group, speaks to audience members at an MSG change-of-command ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 5, 2019. Decker is replacing Col. Patrick Pritchard, who has been named vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Col. Mary Decker receives her first salute as new commander of the 123rd Mission Support Group during a change-of-command ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 5, 2019. Decker replaces Col. Patrick Pritchard, who has been named vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Col. Mary Decker receives her first salute as new commander of the 123rd Mission Support Group during a change-of-command ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 5, 2019. Decker replaces Col. Patrick Pritchard, who has been named vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Col. Mary Decker (right) assumes command of the 123rd Mission Support Group as she accepts the unit’s guidon from Col. David Mounkes, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, during a change-of-command ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 5, 2019. Decker replaces Col. Patrick Pritchard, who has been named vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Col. Mary Decker (right) assumes command of the 123rd Mission Support Group as she accepts the unit’s guidon from Col. David Mounkes, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, during a change-of-command ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 5, 2019. Decker replaces Col. Patrick Pritchard, who has been named vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- With scores of friends, family and colleagues present, Col. Mary Decker took charge of the 123rd Mission Support Group during a change-of-command ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base here Jan. 5.

Presiding over the event was Col. David Mounkes, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, who formally passed the group guidon to Decker after praising her predecessor, Col. Patrick Pritchard, who has been named wing vice commander.

“Col. Pat Pritchard has led the 123rd Mission Support Group for two years in an absolutely successful manner,” Mounkes said. “I think most would, without hesitation, agree when I say that Pat has the right mix of skills and gifts to be a leader’s leader, and that the Mission Support Group will miss him as he moves on.

“To replace Pat, we had to find the right person — somebody with an incredibly wide and long resume, with the right experience and proven performance. We’ve done that with Col. Mary Decker.”

Decker enlisted in the Air Force in 1987 and was assigned to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, where she served as a security specialist. In 1991, she joined the Kentucky Air National Guard and was assigned to the 123rd Security Forces Squadron.

Following graduation from McKendree University, she received her commission in September 2001 and became budget officer for the 123rd Airlift Wing. She then went on to become comptroller and, later, commander of the 123rd Security Forces Squadron.

As a security forces commander, Decker deployed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in support of Hurricane Katrina and to Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, as the chief of Force Protection in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

After her command positions, she became executive officer for the adjutant general of Kentucky, Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini. Following that assignment at the state level, she returned to the wing as commander of the 123rd Communications Flight.

Decker then left the Kentucky Air Guard to work at the Air National Guard Readiness Center at Joint-Base Andrews, Maryland, where she would become comptroller and, later, commander of the 192nd Support Squadron.

Most recently she served as the senior executive officer for the director of the Air National Guard before returning to the Kentucky Air National Guard to take her current post.

“To the personnel of the 123rd Mission Support Group, I’m very excited and honored to be your commander,” Decker said. “Over the years, I have visited many units and can tell you without a doubt, you are an outstanding group of talented professionals. The best example is your most recent deployment, where more than 153 Mission Support Group personnel, both full-time and part-time, deployed.”

Before Decker closed, she thanked retired Col. Robert H. Williams III, a former mission support group commander.

“Thank you for being here today and thank you for your mentorship over the years,” Decker said. “I don’t know if I’d be here today if it weren’t for you sitting down with me when I was a young staff sergeant and discussing commissioning opportunities.”

The Mission Support Group is the wing’s largest and most diverse group, with more than 400 Airmen who provide base fire protection, security and force protection, civil engineering, disaster preparedness, communications, personnel, dining, lodging and information technology services.