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380AEW Article

Passing the baton: 380 AEW change of command ceremony continues decades-long legacy

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Preston Webb and Staff Sgt. Marjorie Bowlden
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
As the only Wing supporting all five Air Force core missions in combat, the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing is unique. With its four groups and 16 squadrons operating across five locations, three countries, and two areas of responsibility, its Airmen are a diverse and complex team who work 24/7 to execute the mission.

To be successful, a wing commander must be deliberate and innovative, said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command. These are qualities exemplified by outgoing 380 AEW commander Brig. Gen. Charles S. Corcoran, and qualities that make incoming commander Brig. Gen. Derek C. France up to the challenge.

“This remains a demanding and dynamic [Area of Responsibility] that will require us to think and execute so we stay ahead of the enemy and ultimately annihilate them to create a stable and secure environment for our partners,” Harrigian said. “I trust you to make the right call. You are the tip of the spear. You are the ones out front. Keep leaning forward, asking the tough questions and delivering the mission. I’m proud every day to be part of this team.”

Members and mission partners of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing welcomed France as the incoming 380 AEW commander during a change of command ceremony July 1, 2017, at an undisclosed location in southwest Asia. Harrigian presided over the ceremony as Corcoran relinquished command.

The 380 AEW, which can trace its roots back to the 380 Bombardment Group operating from Australia during World War II, later evolved by incorporating tankers to improve its range, it also transitioned to a different AOR. That capability allowed the 380th AEW to provide in-air refueling for both Desert Storm and Desert Shield before being deactivated.

The Wing was re-established Jan. 25, 2002, is currently located in Southwest Asia and houses approximately 2,700 American personnel serving as one of the most diverse combat wings in the Air Force.
The wing's mission, to conduct combat operations directed by the President to provide high-altitude all-weather intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, airborne command and control and air refueling, supports both Operations Inherent Resolve and Resolute Support. Its Coalition and mission partners include an Army air defense battalion, a Navy aerial maritime surveillance detachment, a Royal Danish Air Force detachment, and a Royal Australian Air Force Detachment.

Following his tenure as 380 AEW commander, Corcoran — a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours — is slated to assume Deputy Chief of Staff for NATO Air Operations at Ramstein, Germany.

"There's nowhere else on earth that all five core missions happen in the same unit, certainly not in combat. These Airmen do it every day — 24/7, 365 — with professionalism and class," Corcoran said. "The most important group of people [to the mission] are the men and women of the 380 AEW. There's no one better, no finer group of airmen. [France] You're going to see them do amazing things over the next year as they execute the mission,"

Assuming the mantle of 380 AEW commander, France, comes to the unit after serving as the senior executive officer to the vice chief of staff of the Air Force, Gen. Stephen W. "Seve" Wilson, at the Pentagon, Washington, District of Columbia.

France commissioned at the United States Air Force Academy in May 1992. The general was the Distinguished Graduate for both his Undergraduate Pilot Training and F-15 Eagle Basic Course Training Education, and a Training Command Commander's Cup Trophy winner.

After transitioning from the F-15 Eagle to the F-22 Raptor in 2008, he assumed command of the 43rd Fighter Squadron and the 3rd Operations Group. He then took command of the 325th Fighter Wing, Tyndall AFB, Florida, July 24, 2014.

"Coalition partners, thank you for your cooperation. I look forward to continuing the strong relationships with each nation represented here, as well as our direct partners and certain our Hosts," France said.

"Airmen of the 380th, we're a nation born in battle. We enjoy the freedoms that we talk about because we're willing to fight for them when required, and we're at the tip of that spear right now. Opportunities to prove, as Airmen, we really are guardians of freedom and justice. We're our nation's sword and shield, its sentry and avenger."

During the ceremony, in which Harrigian transferred command from Corcoran to France, Harrigian left Airmen of the 380 AEW with two instructions.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the 380th [AEW], to crush this brutal, immoral enemy, we must maintain Air Superiority while we fight for ourselves and our partners." Harrigian said. "In this fight for freedom from terror – both home and abroad – we must be deliberate and innovative."