Farewell from the wing commander

Col Matthew Jones, 436th Airlift Wing commander

Col Matthew Jones, 436th Airlift Wing commander

Leadership from the 436th Airlift Wing, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, take a group photo Sept. 11, 2020, on the flight line at Dover AFB. The 436th AW operates the C-17 Globemaster III and C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

Leadership from the 436th Airlift Wing, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, take a group photo Sept. 11, 2020, on the flight line at Dover AFB. The 436th AW operates the C-17 Globemaster III and C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)


On the eve of my last day leading Dover Air Force Base, I am again reminded of Simon Sinek’s lesson in humility: I deserve a Styrofoam cup. Sinek says that the ceramic cup was never meant for me, it was meant for the position I held. I deserve a Styrofoam cup. I love this lesson, not just as a personal reminder in humility, but as a message that it is the position that is deserving of the protocol commensurate with the responsibility of the job. The position of being a wing commander at Dover AFB is nothing short of magical. More so than anywhere I’ve served, Dover AFB perfectly offsets the responsibility of command with equal authority to act decisively. It matters in so many ways, but first is our combat airlift mission. 

Every day and night, Airmen at Dover AFB, often led entirely by Airmen in their 20s, generate airlift and operate nonstop in dangerous and austere places around the world. They deliver both vital combat and humanitarian cargo, in all-weather environments, employing the world’s largest airlifters. Ever ambassadors of the first state, always executing with tactical precision and often achieving strategic affects. Mother Nature, by way of the worst tornado in 30 years and worst pandemic in 100 years, along with contested combat environments and both civil and social unrest have brought our society to a standstill. But the total force Airmen at Dover AFB did not flinch as they continuously delivered rapid global airlift to the world.

This is enabled by our world-class installation support. An installation that itself serves as an airlift power projection platform, a safe and comfortable place where our families can thrive, an inclusive community where everyone can reach their full potential and a remarkable culture of innovation where you can physically witness change accelerating. Here’s to our defenders who make Dover AFB as secure as any base in the Air Force while providing the most professional and friendly customer service I’ve seen. A team of Airmen medics who provided care, comfort, compassion and clarity during an ongoing pandemic. Mission generators, who when a hurricane unexpectedly gained power and zeroed in on Dover with less than 24 hours’ notice, successfully mobilized our entire fleet to evacuate every aircraft just one hour before the worst tornado to ever hit Delaware. Airmen logisticians who not only found a way to safely transport those positive with COVID-19, but in partnership with a dozen Airmen medics, now screen and test every Department of Defense service member deploying and moving overseas.

Let’s not forget that from winning Air Force level awards, to boosting morale and implementing benchmark programs,  our base force support, civil engineer, contracting, communications, security forces and logistics readiness squadrons continue to serve like champions and win as one! Lastly, Dover AFB thrives literally as a cohesive organization of more than 100 teams. The wing staff is home to the wing’s three highest performing teams in public affairs, base legal and our chapel team.

Not to be outdone is a group of on and off-base mission partners who are truly what makes this community magical.  Just outside the base is a chamber of commerce ranked in the top five percent of 3,000 chambers nationwide, a mayor of a city whose name our base proudly bears, three civic leaders serving at the Air Force and major command levels, and nationally elected leaders and delegations that are the most engaged supporters I’ve ever witnessed. Within the base, our partnership with our reserve Liberty Wing is not only thriving, but differences in our reserve and active-duty components are often indistinguishable. All of this makes the Dover experience magical, but it is the Armed Forces Medical Examiner and mortuary missions that make Dover AFB a national treasure. From identifying the fallen to fulfilling our nation’s sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor and respect to our fallen and care, service and support to their families, these mission partners provide something to our fallen service members that is unique to the United States. They are integrated with and supported by the Delaware USO – a congressionally chartered, private organization, whose local support is again nationally unrivaled.

All of this gives me great comfort that the collective strides we’ve made in readiness, organizational climate, innovation and community will endure. They will endure through a common bond of Airmen who have spent their entire adulthood in the service of their country. National security is as important today as it always has been. Do not be mistaken, America’s preeminence in the world is not diminishing. It is too easy to turn on the news or thumb through your favorite social media platform, become insular and give in to the notion that we are destined to be further divided. My experience in command, yes almost entirely in a pandemic with significant social and racial unrest, actually leaves me with greater hope in humanity. I’ve had the privilege of commanding when leadership truly matters and during a time when humanity both demanded and revealed that our hardest problems cannot be solved simply by pretending they do not exist.

Lastly, on a weekend that celebrates both National Spouse Appreciation Day and Mother’s Day, I want to thank my wife Christie and our girls, Brooke and Devyn, who continue to serve right alongside me.