PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Col. Kurt Matthews assumed command of the 920th Rescue Wing here Dec. 3 in a change of command ceremony officiated by Maj. Gen. Richard Scobee, 10th Air Force, Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas.
Matthews replaced Col. Jeffrey L. Macrander who served as the 920th RQW commander from August 2011 to December 2016. Macrander will be taking an overseas assignment as the Air Reserve Component Liaison to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command, the Air Force Service Component of U.S. Central Command, a joint Department of Defense combatant command responsible for U.S. security interests in 27 nations that stretch from the Horn of Africa through the Persian Gulf region, into Central Asia. His follow-on assignment is to be determined.
Approximately 400 military and civilians were in attendance.
During his farewell speech, Macrander said the wing’s accomplishments during his tenure as commander were not his own, but rather a reflection of the hard work and dedication of the wing’s members.
“Thank you for making my job easy,” Macrander said. “Keep calm and rescue on.”
Matthews previously served as the 920th RQW Operations Group commander in charge of flying operations for the wing since May. He previously served as the commander of the wing’s 308th Rescue Squadron from June 2010 to November 2012.
“I’m humbled by this opportunity-thank you,” Matthews said to the Airmen at the ceremony. “I serve you and we all serve the mission and that’s the focus. The mission is always combat search and rescue.”
Matthews is a 1990 graduate of the University of Miami, Florida, where he earned his commission through the Air Force ROTC program. His assignments include flying duties as an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter instructor/evaluator pilot performing combat rescue, and duties as a space operations officer conducting counter weapons of mass destruction support. He is a 2001 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School and recently completed Air Force Special Operations Command Air Commando training.
Matthews served on active duty for 3 years, the Air National Guard for 2 years, and has been in the Air Force Reserve for 18 years. He has flown in Operations Provide Comfort II, Southern Watch, Northern Watch, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, as well as rescue operations in the aftermath of hurricanes Floyd, Katrina and Rita.
As the former commander of the 919th Special Operations Group, Duke Field, Fla., from 2014-2016, Matthews was responsible for five squadrons and one detachment flying six different mission design series aircraft with more than 500 authorized personnel covering four mission areas. In addition, his unit conducted MQ-9 Reaper kinetic strike operations in various theaters around the world and supported the Aviation Foreign Internal Defense and Combat Aviation Advisor programs for the Air Force Special Operations Command.
During a notable mission in June 2005, Matthews served as the aircraft commander of a personnel recovery mission for the fallen service members of Operation Red Wings in northeastern Afghanistan. Operation Red Wings and events surrounding the operation were documented in the New York Times bestseller Lone Survivor by former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the only U.S. survivor of the ambush that took the lives of 19 U.S. soldiers, sailors and Airmen. Matthews and his crew recovered the final Red Wings team member from the battlefield.
As the 920th RQW commander, Matthews will provide leadership, management and supervision and will be responsible for the organization, training and equipping of the wing.
The 920th RQW is the only combat-search-and-rescue wing in the Air Force Reserve Command and makes up approximately 18 percent of the Air Force's total rescue force. The wing is equipped with five HC-130P/N tanker aircraft and 15 HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters to support worldwide combat rescue operations as well as providing support to the 45th Space Wing, NASA and civilian space agencies providing safety and security of the Eastern Range during all Space Coast launches.
The wing comprises 2,000 dedicated Citizen Airmen assigned to four groups, 17 squadrons, four flights, a headquarters section and three geographically separated units in Arizona, Oregon and Virginia.
The 920 RQW is the most called upon unit in the Air Force Reserve. More than 80 reservists from the unit are currently deployed globally performing rescue operations.
For more information and photos on the 920th RQW, log onto their web site www.920rqw.afrc.af.mil and follow them on social media: @920th Rescue Wing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and You Tube.