TOWN OF NIAGARA, N.Y. -- Thirty years ago to the day, Col. John Higgins joined the armed forces. Saturday he was saluted by Niagara Falls' 107th Airlift Wing as their new commander.
"Becoming a wing commander, that's everybody's dream, is to do that,” said Col. John Higgins. “ And that's what I signed up for when I first got in thirty years ago."
The Western New York native served as the vice commander at the base since 2011 and assumes the new title from Col. Jim McCready.
Higgins is described as a master navigator by his peers...with over 3500 hours in flying a fighter jet, a bomber and the C-130 Hercules.
"Great expertise in all his airplanes that he's flown,” said Maj. Gen. Verle Johnston, New York Air National Guard. “Real talented guy, real ethical, real principle."
The 107th has helped during the war in Afghanistan and during natural disasters, like the earthquake in Haiti and Superstorm Sandy.
Higgins will now be responsible for 800 personnel and equipment at the base.
"We equip our folks, and if we're the best unit in the world, it's gonna be awful tough to close us," Col. Higgins said.
The unit once faced closure, but if Congress give the go-ahead, drone missions may be flown out of the base.
"He's the right guy to know how to convert from one mission to another. He'll be a tremendous asset there."
Col. Higgins served in the Nation Guard Bureau in Washington D.C. until 2009.
He oversaw the mobilization of more than 35 thousand troops in the global war on terror.
But right now, he says he's just happy to be home.
"I'll tell ya, it's something you work for all your life," said Col. Higgins.