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New Nevada Air Guard commander's 'sphere of influence' spans coasts

Nevada Air Guard Brig. Gen. Ondra Berry speaks to hundreds of Nevada Guard Airmen at his change of command ceremony on Saturday at the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno. In addition to commanding more than 1,100 Nevada Guard Airmen, Berry is set to become a special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force (Manpower and Reserve Affairs).

Nevada Air Guard Brig. Gen. Ondra Berry speaks to hundreds of Nevada Guard Airmen at his change of command ceremony on Saturday at the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno. In addition to commanding more than 1,100 Nevada Guard Airmen, Berry is set to become a special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force (Manpower and Reserve Affairs).

RENO -- Brig Gen. Ondra Berry took command of the Nevada Air Guard on Saturday, but it's not the only career change for one of the state's most visible leaders.

In addition to commanding more than 1,100 Nevada Guard Airmen, Berry became the special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) last Friday. Berry will advise the secretary on several issues, including personnel, mission and diversity.

During the change of command ceremony Saturday at the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno, Nevada's Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. Bill Burks, said Berry will bring a "unique perspective" in a "dual-hat position" that will mutually benefit the U.S. Air Force and the Nevada Air Guard.

Berry has served as the special assistant to the chief of NGB on diversity. Before taking command of the Nevada Air Guard, he was assistant adjutant general for the Nevada Air Guard.

Also in attendance at Saturday's ceremony were three staff members of the NGB's Joint Diversity Executive Council.

"General Berry's sphere of influence reaches from west coast to east coast," said Lt. Col. Berlinda Goodson, NGB's diversity program manager and operations officer. "We felt it was important to show unity and to show how much he's done in terms of his contribution to NGB and how much we support him as a leader."

Berry focused the majority of his command ceremony speech on the importance of mentoring young Airman, community outreach and the Nevada Air National Guard's brand. Commanding the Nevada Air Guard "wasn't even on my radar" when Berry enlisted in 1986, he said.

"My favorite saying by Whitney Young, Jr. is 'It's better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared,'" Berry said. "I just stayed prepared. I stayed ready."

Berry called the Nevada Air National Guard "the most precious gem, the most valuable asset that we have in this state."

"If you want to see an example of excellence, if you want to see an example of service, if you want to see a best practice, visit our organization," Berry said during his speech. "So many people don't know the great work the men and women do here on a regular basis. We're a community-based organization. That's what sets us apart."

Berry succeeds Brig. Gen. David Snyder, the Nevada Air Guard's commander since 2012. Snyder replaces Berry as the assistant to the adjutant general. He is set to retire later this year.

"I truly stand on the shoulders of giants and I thank everyone who has mentored me," Snyder said. "I must extend a special thanks to (Brig.) General (Bill) Burks for giving me the chance to command and step away on my own terms."

Additionally, a change of responsibility ceremony was included in Saturday's events. Chief Master Sgt. Michael Drisdale replaced Chief Master Sgt. Rick Scurry as the Nevada Air Guard's state command chief. Scurry retires this month.

"I would be remised if I didn't thank Adjutant General Burks and General Berry for this amazing opportunity to serve the finest Air National Guard in the nation," said Drisdale, who has most recently served as the 152nd Medical Group's superintendent and senior health services technician.