New Liberty Wing head met terror up close
August 3, 2003
RAF LAKENHEATH, England — The man now in charge of the 48th Fighter Wing has perspective on the global war on terror.
In his first remarks as commander of the Liberty Wing, Brig. Gen. Mark T. Matthews recalled smelling the smoke in the halls of the Pentagon following the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
That day, he said, reminds everyone that the world is filled with threats that must be challenged by America and its allies.
“Only together can we prevail,” he said.
Matthews comes to RAF Lakenheath from the Pentagon, where he was deputy director for operational plans and joint matters for the Air Force’s Air and Space Operations Headquarters.
He replaces Brig. Gen. John T. Brennan, who spent more than two years at the wing’s helm and now moves to Kalkar, Germany, as deputy director for the reaction force air staff at NATO’s Allied Command Europe.
The 48th Fighter Wing traces its history to World War II, when the 48th Bombardment Group was activated and supported every major combat operation in western Europe, flying P-47 Thunderbolts.
During the early days of the Cold War, it was based in France, where it received its nickname as the Statue of Liberty Wing. It moved to RAF Lakenheath in 1960.
In honoring Brennan, Maj. Gen. Michael W. Wooley, commander of the Third Air Force, said, “General Brennan has led the 48th through one of the busiest and one of the most dynamic times in its history.”
The wing’s F-15 fighters deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom within 24 hours of getting the call and were flying missions within eight hours of arriving in the theater, Wooley said.
The wing participated in numerous Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotations and supported 70 operations in the world during Brennan’s tenure, earning 202 command awards and 32 Air Force-level awards.
In his final remarks as wing commander, Brennan said: “Men and women of Liberty Wing, you are the best. We’ve had many challenges over the last couple years and every time you’ve risen to the test. Being your commander has been the highlight of my career.”
Matthews, a pilot with more than 2,200 hours in the air, began his remarks by recalling a recent visit to Berlin and visiting a memorial built on the spot where the Nazis burned books during their rise to power in the 1930s.
That threat was overcome by the combined effort of America and its allies.
The Cold War, too, was won by that same type of effort, he said.
“While some threats are coming to an end, many more abound,” he said.