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July 13, 2013

New Flying Tiger leader assumes command

VALDOSTA — It’s eight simple words, largely symbolic, but behind them stretches history.

“Sir, I relinquish command.”

“Sir, I assume command.”

And with that, Col. Billy D. Thompson relinquished command of the 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base, the Flying Tigers, on Friday morning. Assuming command is Col. Chad P. Franks.

Thompson leaves behind two years of impressive statistics. Since taking command in July 2011, his unit has deployed to 47 locations across the globe. They’ve been involved in 11,000 combat sorties and recorded more than 477 combat saves.

But when you get past the numbers, impressive as they are, you get to the heart, to Thompson’s heart.

Maj. Gen. H.D. Polumbo Jr., said during the change of command ceremony Friday, Thompson has “left an impact” on Moody, but if you ask Thompson, it’s Moody that’s left an impact on him.

“There is no more relevant wing than the Flying Tigers,” said Thompson. “Two years ago, I stood here and asked you to commit to our core value, to come in every day to make it a little better than it was the day before. I simply want to say thank you. It was my honor to be a part of your team. For the rest of my life, I’m going to be thankful I was able to serve with you guys.”

For Franks, this is a return home of sorts, having served at Moody in the past.

“What an extraordinary opportunity to rejoin the 23rd, the Flying Tigers,” said Franks.

Franks comes from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, where he was the chief of staff.

Thompson’s next assignment will be serving as chief of legislative liaisons to the United States Senate.

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