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New commander takes reigns of 173rd OG in unique aerial ceremony

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Edwards takes command of the 173rd Operation Group in a unique change of command ceremony at Kingsley Field, Ore. May 1, 2015. Edwards and French conducted an aerial change of command ceremony in which Edward's F-15 pulled ahead of Col. Frederick French’s aircraft as a symbol of taking the lead of the group. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Penny Snoozy)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Edwards takes command of the 173rd Operation Group in a unique change of command ceremony at Kingsley Field, Ore. May 1, 2015. Edwards and French conducted an aerial change of command ceremony in which Edward's F-15 pulled ahead of Col. Frederick French’s aircraft as a symbol of taking the lead of the group. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Penny Snoozy)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Edwards, 173rd Operations Group Commander, and Col. Frederick French, 173rd Fighter Wing Vice Commander, prepare to exit their F-15s after a unique change of command ceremony for the 173rd OG at Kingsley Field, Ore. May 1, 2015. Edwards and French conducted an aerial change of command ceremony in which Edward's F-15 pulled ahead of French’s aircraft as a symbol of taking the lead of the group. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Penny Snoozy))

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Edwards, 173rd Operations Group Commander, and Col. Frederick French, 173rd Fighter Wing Vice Commander, prepare to exit their F-15s after a unique change of command ceremony for the 173rd OG at Kingsley Field, Ore. May 1, 2015. Edwards and French conducted an aerial change of command ceremony in which Edward's F-15 pulled ahead of French’s aircraft as a symbol of taking the lead of the group. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Penny Snoozy))

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Edwards takes command of the 173rd Operation Group after a unique change of command ceremony at Kingsley Field, Ore. May 1, 2015. Edwards and French conducted an aerial change of command ceremony in which Edward's F-15 pulled ahead of Col. Frederick French’s aircraft as a symbol of taking the lead of the group. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Penny Snoozy)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Edwards takes command of the 173rd Operation Group after a unique change of command ceremony at Kingsley Field, Ore. May 1, 2015. Edwards and French conducted an aerial change of command ceremony in which Edward's F-15 pulled ahead of Col. Frederick French’s aircraft as a symbol of taking the lead of the group. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Penny Snoozy)

KINGSLEY FIELD, Ore. -- The 173rd Fighter Wing Operations Group officially welcomed a new commander May 1, 2015. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Edwards took command of the group, replacing Col. Frederick French in an aerial change of command ceremony.

The aerial change of command was a first of its kind for Kingsley Field.  French and Edwards piloted two F-15s over the outdoor ceremony where members of the 173rd OG were gathered and Edward's F-15 pulled ahead of French's aircraft as a symbol of taking command of the group.

The two aircraft performed this exchange in passing over the ceremony where the pilots' in-flight communications were relayed through the speakers at the event. As the first aerial change of command event at Kingsley, the communications were hit and miss and the National Anthem would simply not play properly. In a fortunate turn of events military spouse Katy Ebner, a former Miss America and experienced vocalist, stepped out of the crowd when the audio failed and sang the National Anthem allowing the ceremony continue smoothly.

Edwards has served multiple roles at Kingsley Field. He was the commander for the maintenance squadron from 2009 to 2012, and he took command of the 114th Fighter Squadron in May of 2012.  He was selected for a year as the Wings Special Projects Officer starting in November 2014 before he was selected as the Director of Operations (A3) for the Oregon Air National Guard. Edwards has been at Kingsley for 11 years, and has over 20 years of service starting with his graduation from the Air Force Academy in 1995. He was stationed in Alaska, Florida, and Korea before joining the Oregon Air National Guard.

Edwards says his emphasis is on a positive work environment that keeps the "most precious asset," the 173rd OG airmen and their families, happy and productive. The Airmen's hard work and dedication were honored when they were named Air Education and Training Command's Top Fighter Squadron for 2014.

Edwards believes that Kingsley has been on the leading edge of training innovations for the last decade. In regards to his expectations, Edwards quotes a former 173rd OG commander Col. Rick Wedan, and challenged the 173rd OG to continue "...to 'blaze a new trail' in the areas of F-15 training and the intelligence Formal Training Unit....to increase the combat capability of our F-15 and IFTU graduates."

Along with retaining and recruiting outstanding Airmen to continue the great work in the 173rd OG, Edwards added that looking beyond recent accomplishments and "...[continuing] to be humble professionals who uphold the highest standards and aggressively strive for continual improvement," will continue the group's success.

"I am fully confident that [the 173rd OG] will successfully accomplish the mission of graduating the best F-15 pilots and Intelligence Officers for the combat air forces," said Edwards.

French took command of the 173rd OG in January 2013 and is now the 173rd FW Vice Commander as of May 2015.