JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Col. Matthew French took command of the 125th Fighter Wing during an assumption of command ceremony at Jacksonville IAP on January 11.
“Standing here as your commander, I want you to know that we have a sacred trust, not only with each other, but with our nation, state and citizens for the protection of life, liberty and property,” French said. “This solemn duty I do not shoulder lightly, and I will endeavor to lead with excellence.”
During the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Michael Valle, Florida assistant adjutant general-air, passed the ceremonial colors to French as a visual expression of the passing of command.
Historically, the colors of a unit were kept at the commander’s side and carried forward into battle, even if the commander fell in combat. French accepted the colors in front of friends and family around the world signifying his acceptance of the new position and assumption of responsibility.
Along with the flag, Valle offered French some encouraging words and lauded him for his career thus far. He talked about the men and women of the 125th FW deployed around the world every day of the year, and how French was the right man to lead a team with that kind of global dedication.
“You are a warrior with a distinguished record of accomplishments in your career, but the resume doesn’t capture it,” Valle said. “I know well, and everyone here knows well, you care deeply for your people.”
After accepting command of the wing, French told the story of a commanding officer in the early American militia, General Daniel Morgan, during the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina. On that day, the militia prepared themselves to battle a much larger, well-trained British force. Morgan told his men they each owed him two shots before falling back. That was it.
French told this story to illustrate his command philosophy in a single word: trust.
“Leaders, you must instill trust in your Airmen by clearly communicating your intent and the purpose of your actions,” French said. “For our Airmen…you must communicate with your leaders and fellow Airmen about what is working, when you need help, or when things are going wrong–even if it is the errors of your leadership.
“That is how trust is built: clear communication and effective execution while taking care of each other.”
French previously served as the 125th Operations Group Commander. There, he lead the only combined Air and Space Dominance Group in the Air National Guard comprised of units including a fighter squadron, space control squadron, combat weather and weather training flights.
French also instructed at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School before transitioning in 2010 to the Florida Air National Guard. He has commanded a maintenance squadron and is a command pilot with over 2,400 hours in the T-37, T-38, and F-15A-D.
In his closing remarks, the new 125th FW commander addressed the troops now under his command, and thanked them for their service.
“I want to express my highest gratitude to the Thunder Airmen, the men and women of the 125th Fighter Wing,” French said. “Thank you for bringing the vision of our wing to life. You are inspired Airmen. We are a high performing team, and we provide our Air and Space Force’s lethal capability.”