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New commander takes over troubled 186th ARW

By Staff
CHANGE OF COMMAND State Adjutant Gen. James H. Lipscomb, left, relieves Col. Joe Spraggins of his duties as commander of the Mississippi Air National Guard's 186th Air Refueling Wing while Col. James E. "Erik" Hearon, right, prepares to assume command. Chief Master Sgt. Gerald Goodin watches the change of command ceremonies at Key Field on Sunday. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Sept. 8, 2003
The new commander of the Mississippi Air National Guard's 186th Air Refueling Wing promised to learn from the past and "focus on the future."
Col. James E. "Erik" Hearon, former operations group commander at the 172nd Airlift Wing in Jackson, replaced Col. Joe Spraggins during formal change of command ceremonies Sunday at Key Field.
Hearon took over from Spraggins, who had been at the 186th since February when Col. David L. Weaver was dismissed amid allegations in an Air Force Inspector General's report that he and others broke regulations.
Sunday's change of command ceremony came weeks after investigating officer Col. Ken Emmanuel, a staff judge advocate from the Florida Air National Guard, conducted a second round of interviews in Meridian.
Emmanuel talked with those accused of misconduct. He also spoke with others claiming to have information about questioned activities at the 186th.
The current investigation follows the earlier probe completed by the U.S. Air Force Inspector General that resulted in Weaver's termination and Lt. Col. Thomas Temple's retirement.
That probe substantiated 16 allegations of racism, records falsification and corruption. The Air Force investigator turned over 22 more allegations against others, which spawned the current examination.
Emmanuel will transcribe his interviews, reach his conclusions and present his report for legal review before turning it over to state Adjutant Gen. James H. Lipscomb, the Guard said.
Spraggins had come to the 186th from the Air Guard's Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport. Spraggins is returning to his job as commander in Gulfport.
Spraggins said he never expected to stay as long as he did.
Hearon, who has been with the 186th for about two weeks, said he is looking forward to working with the men and women in Meridian.