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Brig. Gen. Mark Massaro takes command of 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base

Brig. Gen. Mark Massaro assumed command of the 96th Test Wing from Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Geraghty at Eglin Air Force Base, highlighting the wing's crucial role in national defense and strong community partnerships.
Official Air Force biography portrait of Brig. Gen. Mark Massaro (U.S. Air Force photo by Michelle Gigante)

In a ceremony steeped in military tradition, Brig. Gen. Mark Massaro assumed command of the 96th Test Wing from Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Geraghty on July 3, 2024. The change of command took place in the McKinley Climatic Laboratory, providing a climate-controlled setting for the event.

  • Maj. Gen. Evan Dertien, Air Force Test Center commander, presided over the ceremony, which was attended by Congressman Matt Gaetz, local community leaders, and members of the 96th Test Wing.

In his opening remarks, Maj. Gen. Dertien highlighted the significance of Eglin Air Force Base and its role in developing joint capabilities to support national objectives. “Eglin is on the leading edge of forging new technologies into fielded capabilities and supporting a diverse array of joint activities,” Dertien said.

He emphasized the crucial partnership between Eglin and the surrounding communities, calling it “foundational to the mission execution.” Dertien noted that this partnership dates back to the 1930s when Eglin was first established to train pilots for World War II.

Dertien praised the 96th Test Wing’s accomplishments under Geraghty’s leadership, including supporting 20,000 personnel across the 724-square-mile range and establishing an artificial intelligence proving ground. He also highlighted initiatives to increase childcare capacity and advance family support programs.

  • “Throughout all the accomplishments, Brigadier General Geraghty’s focus has been on people and the future,” Dertien said. He also recognized Geraghty’s wife, Nora, for her dedication to the families of the Eglin community, including her work with the Airman’s Attic and mentoring for the Eglin Spouses Club.

As part of the ceremony, Geraghty was presented with the Legion of Merit. The citation noted his stewardship of the Department of Defense’s busiest airfield and the United States Air Force’s largest test range. Under his command, the wing executed 579 flight and ground testing programs with a combined budget of over $1.1 billion.

In his farewell remarks, Geraghty expressed gratitude to the Eglin community and his team. “Team Eglin, I had such high expectations for you. You went and exceeded those expectations time after time,” he said. He also thanked the local community for their support, calling the Eglin area a “gracious and patriotic community.”

  • Geraghty and his family will be moving to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where he will lead the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate.

Incoming commander Brig. Gen. Massaro brings a wealth of experience to his new role. A combat-proven fighter pilot, instructor, and evaluator, Massaro is also an engineer and test pilot. He previously commanded a classified assignment and served as the 495th Operations Group commander at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

In introducing Massaro, Maj. Gen. Dertien highlighted his strong family values and devotion to selfless service. Massaro’s wife, Becky, is an engineer who has teleworked throughout their 20-plus year career. Their son, Joey, is an engineering student at Purdue, while their daughter, Jenna, is pursuing an aviation degree at Utah State University.

In his first address as commander, Massaro expressed his excitement about returning to Eglin after 15 years. “I’m humbled to be here today as the commander of the 96th Test Wing,” he said. Massaro outlined his priorities as executing the mission, caring for people, and partnering for success.

  • He emphasized the wing’s role in advancing the Air Force’s operational imperatives, including strengthening the nation’s air-delivered arsenal, enhancing navigation and guidance systems, and developing joint all-domain command and control systems.

Massaro also stressed the importance of partnerships, both within Team Eglin and with the local community. “I am committed to continuing the strong relationships that have been built up over these past years as we partner for success,” he said.

The ceremony included several traditional elements, such as the passing of the unit guidon to symbolize the transfer of command. The 96th Test Wing Honor Guard presented the colors, and General Geraghty’s daughter sang the national anthem.

  • As part of the welcome for the new commander, an F-16 aircraft was unveiled bearing Massaro’s name.

The change of command ceremony highlighted the critical role of the 96th Test Wing in supporting national defense objectives. As the largest installation in the U.S. Air Force, Eglin Air Force Base hosts a complex mission set that includes weapons development, advanced spectrum warfare, and training for special operations forces and other specialized units.

The event concluded with the Air Force song, marking the official transfer of leadership. Brig. Gen. Massaro now leads the wing’s efforts in testing and evaluation of systems critical to U.S. military capabilities in an era of great power competition.

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