As Col. Darren Hartford addressed the airmen of the 437th Airlift Wing as commander for the last time Thursday morning, an airplane loudly flew over Joint Base Charleston.
"I love that sound," Hartford said with a smile.
Hartford handed the command of the 437th Airlift Wing to Col. John Lamontagne at Thursday's Change of Command ceremony. Hartford will soon be promoted to brigadier general of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. He served as commander of the 437th Airlift Wing for nearly two years.
Lamontagne, who has been stationed at Joint Base Charleston twice before, comes from a year at Al Udeid as the wing's operations commander.
His focus as commander will be on three overarching themes: mission, airmen and fun. The wing must prioritize their mission, take care of its airmen and have fun while serving.
"Business is business and combat is combat," Lamontagne said. "But life in the Air Force is not supposed to be miserable, and I know that it's not here."
The new commander is glad to be back in the Lowcountry, partly because his post in Qatar kept him away from his wife and two daughters, who will join him in Charleston after the school year is done.
Lamontagne has known the Air Force all his life; his father served in the branch, and their family moved around the world, living in Alabama, England, Germany and many other places. While his father never pushed Lamontagne into a military career, it was something he said he always knew he wanted.
"I always looked up to him and followed his path," Lamontagne said. He earned a bachelor's degree in astronautical engineering from the United States Air Force Academy in 1992 and has since earned many awards for his service, including the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Defense Superior Service Medal.
Lamontagne said he's looking forward to leading the 437th Airlift Wing.
"It's a great job," he said. "I have the opportunity to give back and take care of the airmen who make the mission happen, day in and day out."
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