Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany Murphy, VAFB

By Janene Scully

Noozhawk North County Editor

A new commander has taken the helm of the primary unit at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Col. Anthony J. Mastalir assumed leadership of the 30th Space Wing during a morning change of command ceremony July 12, replacing Col. Michael Hough after Hough had spent approximately two years on the job.

Maj. Gen. Stephen N. Whiting, 14th Air Force commander and Joint Force Space Component Command deputy commander, presided over the ceremony held at the base parade grounds.

“Serving in the 30th Space Wing is a dream come true for me,” Mastalir said. “When I was an ROTC cadet, I had the opportunity to observe an Atlas II rocket launch … Afterward, I knew I wanted to be part of the space enterprise, and space lift is where it all begins.

“It is the most tangible mission in Air Force Space Command … you can see it and at T-zero, you can hear it and feel it.”

Mastalir previously served as the deputy director of the Space Security and Defense Program at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. He also previously served as 50th Space Wing vice commander at Schriever Air Force Base, also in Colorado Springs.

He emphasized the importance of each member’s role for the 30th Space Wing’s mission rocket launches and missile tests to occur safely.

“It is the most exhilarating peacetime mission in the Department of Defense, bar none, and we own it,” Mastalir said. “Every member of this wing plays a critical role in mission success.”

The 30th Space Wing commander, sometimes likened to the role of a municipal mayor, oversees Vandenberg, which at approximately 100,000 aces is the Air Force’s third-largest base with 11,000 military members, civilians and contractors’ employees.

Mastalir is familiar with Vandenberg, having attended undergraduate space and missile training at the base in 1995 and missile initial qualification training in 1999.

Among his previous positions, he held several assignments at Air Force Space Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, including as aide-de-camp to the commander, then Gen. Lance Lord, a former 30th Space Wing commander.

During the change of command ceremony, Whiting praised the departing commander as a “phenomenal leader and mentor” who has “earned the respect and gratitude of the men and women of the 30th Space Wing, the local communities and all of Vandenberg.”

Hough arrived in June 2017 and next will become Air Force ROTC commander for the University of Virginia. Most 30th Space Wing commanders spend about the same amount of time before moving to a new assignment.

His time at Vandenberg included the West Coast’s first interplanetary mission to Mars, the last Delta II rocket launch, many of the Falcon 9 Iridium Next launches and the first double shot of two missile-defense interceptors.

His final days as 30th Space Wing commander included hosting Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, during a whirlwind visit.

“Sir, again welcome to Vandenberg Air Force Base, in my biased opinion, home of the best wing in the Air Force, the 30th Space Wing,” Hough told Pence while rattling off facts and figures about the base, including its 46 miles of coastline.

“We really sit on a strategic piece of real estate here,” he added. “It is a national treasure.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at