75th Air Base Wing welcomes new leader during trying times

Jun 30 2011 - 11:22pm

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Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner
Maj. Gen. Andrew E. Busch (left) hands Col. Sarah Zabel a flag during the change-of-command ceremony for the 75th Air Base Wing at Hill Air Force Base on Thursday. Zabel assumed command from Col. Patrick Higby, who will become commander of the White House Communications Agency in Washington, D.C.
Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner
Maj. Gen. Andrew E. Busch (left) shakes the hand of Col. Patrick Higby as they stand with Col. Sarah Zabel.
Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner
Col. Sarah Zabel salutes the 75th Air Base Wing after the change-of-command ceremony at Hill Air Force Base on Thursday. Zabel assumed command from Col. Patrick Higby, who will become commander of the White House Communications Agency in Washington, D.C.
Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner
Layton Mayor Steve Curtis during the change of command ceremony for the 75th Air Base Wing at Hill 
Air Force Base on Thursday. Zabel assumed command from Col. Patrick Higby, who will become commander of the White House Communications Agency in Washington, D.C.
Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner
Maj. Gen. Andrew E. Busch (left) hands Col. Sarah Zabel a flag during the change-of-command ceremony for the 75th Air Base Wing at Hill Air Force Base on Thursday. Zabel assumed command from Col. Patrick Higby, who will become commander of the White House Communications Agency in Washington, D.C.
Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner
Maj. Gen. Andrew E. Busch (left) shakes the hand of Col. Patrick Higby as they stand with Col. Sarah Zabel.
Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner
Col. Sarah Zabel salutes the 75th Air Base Wing after the change-of-command ceremony at Hill Air Force Base on Thursday. Zabel assumed command from Col. Patrick Higby, who will become commander of the White House Communications Agency in Washington, D.C.
Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner
Layton Mayor Steve Curtis during the change of command ceremony for the 75th Air Base Wing at Hill 
Air Force Base on Thursday. Zabel assumed command from Col. Patrick Higby, who will become commander of the White House Communications Agency in Washington, D.C.

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HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- The new "mayor" of Hill Air Force Base will step into her new assignment with a requirement to do more with less.

On Thursday, in a ceremony in one of the base's aircraft hangars, Col. Sarah Zabel assumed command of the 75th Air Base Wing from Col. Patrick Higby, who will be headed to Washington, D.C., for a new position with the White House Communications Agency.

Zabel comes from the nation's capital, where she served in the Pentagon's Net Services program.

The air base wing provides installation support for the Ogden Air Logistics Center, both the 388th and 419th fighter wings, and 61 other associate units, totaling 24,000 active-duty military, civilian and contractor personnel.

The wing also supports Air and Space Expeditionary Forces operations and has support responsibility for the operation of the 1,500-square-mile Utah Test and Training Range.

The commander of the wing essentially serves as the base's mayor.

Zabel said she will face many challenges in her new position, most of which come as a result of a shrinking national defense budget.

The wing's 2011 operating and maintenance budget has been slashed for the fourth consecutive year and is down more than 50 percent from what it was in 2008.

Maj. Gen. Andrew Busch said the wing's budget is probably about 60 percent of what would be considered ideal.

"That tells you (the wing commander) has a lot of tough decisions to face every day," he said.

Zabel said budgetary and manpower challenges are just a few things she will have to overcome.

"Some of the challenges we face are daunting. Funding has been reduced, people have been reduced. The only thing that hasn't been reduced are the expectations of what is required of us."

Airmen have also been asked to fulfill longer and more frequent deployments, and aircraft like the A-10 and F-16 are being used well past their expected lifetimes.

More than 9,500 Hill airmen have deployed since Higby took over the wing in April 2009.

"We just have to find ways to create new efficiencies," Zabel said. "Although we are going through some lean times, the mission requirement has not changed."

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