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Meet Col. Derek France, 325th Fighter Wing commander

Colonel Derek France, 325th Fighter Wing commander salutes during the 325th FW change of command ceremony, July 24 at Tyndall.(U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sgt. Javier Cruz/Released)

Colonel Derek France, 325th Fighter Wing commander salutes during the 325th FW change of command ceremony, July 24 at Tyndall.(U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sgt. Javier Cruz/Released)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

First as a student, then as a squadron commander, a member of Team Tyndall returned for the third time to command the 325th Fighter Wing.

Col. Derek France is now at Tyndall as the 325th FW commander after more than four years away.

"We have good friends in the community, and our family is really excited to be back," said France. "We have really had some great assignments, but the best one has got to be here."

Tyndall is special to France. He said that his proudest professional moment was recently when he first took the guidon and assumed command of the 325th FW during the change of command ceremony.

"I've been completely impressed since the moment I set foot on this place," said France. "It's not like going back to your old high school where you have this vision of a really great place, but when you go back there, the place doesn't live up to the memory. That is not the case returning to Tyndall. The team here continues to live up to its proud heritage of training and now projecting air dominance."

Growing up, France knew he wanted to be a pilot. His father served in the Air Force for 22 years. So the military mindset and lifestyle was no stranger to France. 

"My father was a pilot as well, and I was interested in flying from a very young age," said France. "He flew the F-111 Aardvark when we lived in Cannon AFB, N.M. They would do firepower demonstrations, and I can remember as a kid when the bombs went off you could feel the blast from the viewing stand on the range. So that made a pretty good impression."

After high school, France attended the U.S. Air Force Academy, and graduated in 1992. He then attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin AFB, Texas.

France first came to Tyndall in 1994 as an F-15C Eagle Basic Course student with the 95th Fighter Squadron. It was here where he first met his wife, Amanda, a Pascagoula, Miss., native studying nursing at the Bay Medical Center. They later married halfway through his next assignment at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.

"She's a wonderful person, a great wife and an awesome mom," said France.

Their family began to grow at Nellis AFB where they had their first daughter. Two more daughters followed within the next six years. Their ages now are 16, 14 and 10.

In 2008, France returned with his family to Tyndall to command the 43rd Fighter Squadron. They departed Tyndall again in 2010 and moved to Washington D.C., to Alaska and then Korea.

Now that he is back, the new commander is excited about the future and possibilities of Team Tyndall.

"I look forward to seeing this wing grow into its new mission, meeting the amazing Airmen that work on Tyndall and ensuring that they understand their role in the overall mission," said France. "I believe that no matter what an Airman does, if they understand their role and how it fits into the mission, it gives them serious motivation and pride in contributing to the big picture."

As a final thought, France wanted to share this advice about a happy life and career.

"The key to enjoying life in the Air Force is wherever you land, figure out the good things about it and latch on to them and do them," said France. "Bloom where you're planted, learn something every day and take advantage of the opportunities you have."