Hunters welcome new 432nd WG/432nd AEW commander

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  • By 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The members of the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft enterprise welcomed their new commander during a change of command ceremony, May 20, 2021.

Col. Eric “OH” Schmidt assumed command from Col. Stephen “Joker” Jones as Maj. Gen. Chad Franks, 15th Air Force commander, presided over the event.

Franks discussed the Wing’s milestones and accomplishments during Jones’ two year command tour, praising his success with the assumption of full installation command authority, gaining a fifth group, and adding 400 Airmen and 714,000 square feet of new facilities to the Wing’s portfolio.

“The warriors of the 432nd Wing and 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing have been exceptional…because they were well led,” Franks said. “Joker, you’ve done a fantastic job here; these accomplishments are your legacy—you should be proud.”

Following the opening comments, Franks presented Jones with the Legion of Merit, highlighting a myriad of firsts and significant RPA Enterprise successes. These included his leadership as the first RPA line pilot to lead the Wing and its 24/7/365 combat operations. He preserved this mission with zero degradation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic while also overseeing $83 million in facility construction and enabling firefighting support for California wildfires.

“A consolation for stepping away from this great enterprise is handing it over to Col. Eric Schmidt,” Jones said. “Eric brings the skills, expertise and the vision that will continue to lead 432d Wing into the future.

“In conclusion, to the Airmen of 432nd Wing, your families and everyone in this hangar and those watching from afar,” he continued. “I see you, I recognize your contributions, and I thank you.”

After Schmidt assumed command, he also paid thanks to his family, members of the audience, and wingmen who have challenged and supported him throughout his 22 years of service.  

“I often say our Airmen deserve great leadership, and that is just what they will get with Col. Eric “OH” Schmidt as he takes the reins of this amazing wing,” Franks said. “OH comes to us with an impressive resume filled with experience in the special operations and flying communities with accomplishments that have prepared him well for this challenging and prestigious position.”

Schmidt has logged more than 2,900 hours in the F-15C, MQ-1B, and the MQ-9. He was also an instructor pilot with the 425th Fighter Training Squadron and taught Airmen to fly the AT-38C.

As the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, Schmidt is responsible for more than 5,000 Airmen, who are providing persistent attack and reconnaissance for ground forces in combat zones while also expanding mission sets and capabilities to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

“To the Hunter warriors and families: thank you for your professionalism, thank you for your service, and thank you for your sacrifice,” Schmidt said. “You are the legends that future generations will applaud in the chronicles of combat. I commit to leading you with the humble dedication you all deserve.”