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Cotton: Stay sharp; Our mission demands it

From right, 45th Space Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Anthony Cotton, wife Marsha, son Russel and daughter Brianna, at the wing’s change of command reception Aug. 30 at The Tides. (Air Force Photo/Julie Dayringer)

From right, 45th Space Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Anthony Cotton, wife Marsha, son Russel and daughter Brianna, at the wing’s change of command reception Aug. 30 at The Tides. (Air Force Photo/Julie Dayringer)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Tuesday was a pretty good day for Brig. Gen. (Select) Anthony J. Cotton.

At 8 a.m., he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. About thirty minutes later, he assumed command of the 45th Space Wing from outgoing commander, Brig. Gen. Ed Wilson in back-to-back ceremonies held here at the Base Theatre.

Not a bad way to start the day.

The promotion ceremony was presided over by and Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Robert Hinson. Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, currently the 14th Air Force commander, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., presided over the change of commander ceremony. Both are former commanders of the 45th Space Wing as well.

"Coming back here as the commander of the world's greatest space wing is the culmination of a dream for all of us," said Gen. Cotton. "What makes today even better is having all these friends and family and role models who are here to share this day with us," he said.

"Marsha (his wife) and I have great memories from our last tour here, and we look forward to expanding on those during this assignment," he said with a knowing smile.

From June, 2001 - March, 2004, Gen. Cotton wore three different hats here. He served as the Operations Officer, 45th Range Squadron, the Commander, 3rd Space Launch Squadron, and the Deputy Commander, 45th Operations Group.

Lt. Gen. Helms, a well-known former NASA Astronaut, who was just inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame last May, said Gen. Cotton is the perfect person to take the helms from Gen. Wilson.

"Having someone with General Anthony Cotton's reputation and experience here makes him the perfect officer to lead this great wing," said Lt. Gen. Helms. "He knows how to lead from the front, he knows what he's doing, he knows the mission of the 45th, and he knows he's going to be working with some very talented, very devoted people here," she said.

The outgoing commander couldn't agree more with Lt. Gen. Helms.

"Lisa and I wish Tony and Marsha and their children (Russel, 23 and Brianna, 17) all the best as they rejoin the Shark family. It's a critical time for our nation's space launch and range missions," said Brig. Gen Wilson.

"We are fortunate to have someone of General Cotton's caliber to lead the 45th Space Wing as they take on the challenges in the years ahead," said Gen. Wilson, who is leaving to become the Director, Air Component Coordination Element-Ft Meade, 24th Air Force, Air Force Space Command, Ft. Meade, Md.

Gen. Cotton, a 1981 graduate of Southern Wayne Sr. High School in Dudley, N.C., is the proud son of Chief Master Sgt. (Ret) James H. and Amy K. Cotton, both of whom are deceased. He graduated in 1986 with a Bachelors degree in Political Science from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.

From there, he has served in a wide variety of positions and locations, including the Chief of Protocol while assigned to Twentieth Air Force and as an Executive Officer to the Commander, Fourteenth Air Force. Gen. Cotton has also served as a Deputy Operations Group Commander and as the Deputy Director, Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Executive Action Group, and Senior Military Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

Gen. Cotton, a self-described "Military Brat" who also graduated from the Army War College in June, 2005, said he is a firm believer in the "Four C's Philosophy."

"Compliance. Competence. Composure. Commitment," he said, ticking off each word deliberately.

"This is not a rant or a mantra," he said with conviction, "it's a course of action."

He obviously practices what he preaches. In a commentary he wrote earlier this month, he addressed the successful Nuclear Surety Inspection his former team had gone through and passed with flying colors.

"Celebrate a job well done, but do not feed off your own headlines," he said.

"We must continue to work with the same level of intensity. Keep your drive and stay sharp. Our mission demands it."

He could've been talking about the mission here at the 45th Space Wing as well.