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Mattituck resident Edward Rittberg is new command chief of 106th rescue wing

Edward Rittberg has not had much time to spruce up his new office, so only the essentials are present.

Among them are a small rock one of his daughters painted with the word “love,” a historic firefighter’s badge a former commander bought for him at the New York City Fire Museum and various challenge coins he earned throughout his 29 years in the United States Air Force.

Since April, when the 46-year-old Mattituck resident was promoted to command chief of the 106th Rescue Wing at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, this office is where he’s spent the first half of most days. Like office duty anywhere, his is awash in emails and memos.

But during the afternoon hours, he puts on his cap and tours the grounds of the 106th. He gathers the information he needs to perform his primary duty as command chief: advising Col. Shawn Fitzgerald, Commander of the 106th Rescue Wing, on matters influencing the health, morale, welfare, quality of life and professional development of all enlisted personnel assigned to the wing.

“I may advise the Wing Commander on how we need to tweak different policies,” he explained. “Essentially, I don’t stick my hand in the cookie jar. I have squadron chiefs that handle their business, and then there’s group chiefs.”

Chief Master Sgt. Rittberg first joined the New York Air National Guard at the 106th Rescue Base in 1997. When discussing the wing’s mission with a reporter from The Suffolk Times last week, he broke it down between federal and state responsibilities.

The base’s federal mission is combat rescue, for which they have a Guardian Angel unit. This collective of combat rescue officers, pararescuemen and specialists in survival, evasion, resistance and escape, known as SEREs, rescue personnel around the globe during peacetime and war.

Chief Master Sgt. Edward Rittberg sits in his new office at the 106th Rescue Wing. (Credit Nicholas Grasso)

Civilians are more likely aware of the 106th’s New York State mission, which entails domestic rescues during crises.

“Let’s say there’s a hurricane, or there’s flooding somewhere, or a snowstorm,” Chief Master Sgt. Rittberg said. “We have to send the pararescuemen out with the technical rescue equipment that they have to go facilitate rescues anywhere in New York.

“It can go beyond New York as well,” he continued. “We’ve been tasked to very different environments, [such as] Louisiana [during] Hurricane Harvey, so we can be tasked to go anywhere in the United States.”

There are four groups on the base: operations, mission support, medical and maintenance. These are the cookie jars in his kitchen that the new command chief doesn’t touch, but he knows what is involved in each of them. After all, he has worked in each of these groups during his nearly three decades of experience, and he believes this diverse background helped him secure his latest promotion. His tenure at the 106th has included time as a rescue loadmaster aboard an HC-130 aircraft in charge of cargo and personnel drops as well as sequential duties as senior enlisted leader of the mission support, medical and maintenance groups.

In between these tasks, he served as chief of the Air Expeditionary Force at the ANG Readiness Center at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland from 2011 to 2014. There, he was responsible for the deployment of 105,000 airmen worldwide.

The chief master sergeant joined the Air Force after graduating from Bellport High School in 1994, enlisting as a life support specialist in charge of life-saving equipment. After completing technical training at Sheppard Air Force Base in northern Texas, he served the 335th Fighter Squadron at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C., where he became a survival instructor assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing.

As his time in active duty was coming to an end, his father, Alan Rittberg, turned him on to where he worked as a vehicle maintenance chief: the 106th. Mr. Rittberg said he and his father often crossed paths as they performed different duties on the flight line for the same deployments.

“As he was proud of me, I was proud of him,” he said. “There were different events we got to do together as father and son, and it was an amazing feeling, being able to work with your father at the end of his career.”

When he is not on duty serving his nation, Edward Rittberg serves his community as a volunteer with the Mattituck Fire Department, where he was chief throughout 2021 and 2022. His wife of 21 years, Carrie, is a Mattituck native and a physical education teacher at Commack Road Elementary School in Islip. He said he and Carrie have raised “two incredible young women that I’m proud of” — daughters Rylie, 19, and Paige, 15. “They’re my life.”

When asked what he’s been most proud of throughout his career — the end of which he said remains far in the distance — he did not ponder long on his answer.

“Working at the 106th Rescue Wing,” he said. “It’s an incredible feeling, it’s an incredible mission and I’m very proud to be here.”