Lewis takes command of VNG aviation battalion

Lt. Col. Matthew Lewis takes command of Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division in a traditional change of command ceremony held July 26, 2020, at the Virginia National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

SANDSTON, Va. — Lt. Col. Matthew Lewis took command of Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division during a change of command ceremony held July 26, 2020, at the Virginia National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility. Maj. Gen. John M. Epperly, 29th Infantry Division Commander, presided over the exchange of unit colors. 

“To meet the challenges of [your] future missions, you’ll need a commander who is a great leader and Army pilot and I’m happy to say you have that,” Epperly said at the ceremony. “Lt. Col. Matt Lewis has been with you through many of these challenges that you have faced as a battalion over the last several years. He is already a part of this team and he is ready.” 

The outgoing commander, Lt. Col. James Sheldon, was unable to attend the ceremony due to an overseas deployment, but Maj. Ryan Strait, battalion executive officer, stood in for him during the exchange of colors, which symbolized the transition of authority from one commander to the next. 

“The presence of the battalion colors at the center of the formation represents their importance of being at the forefront of the unit during the heat of battle,” explained 1st Lt. Blake Place, master of ceremony for the event. “The key to a change of command is the passing of a unit’s colors. These colors represent not only the heritage and history of the unit, but also the unity and loyalty of its Soldiers.” 

As Place explained the significance of the unit’s colors, Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Hall brought the colors forward and then passed them to Strait, who then passed them to Epperly to signify Sheldon’s relinquishing of command for the battalion. Epperly then passed the colors to Lewis to signify his assumption of command. Finally, Lewis returned the colors to Hall for safekeeping. 

“The colors are the commanders’ symbol of authority, representing his responsibility to the organization and its Soldiers,” Place said. “Wherever the commander is, so too are the colors.” 

While Sheldon could not be present at the ceremony, Strait shared a message from him during the ceremony. 

“Reflecting on the past two years, I am in awe of the accomplishments of this unit,” Strait read, highlighting the many missions completed and safe flight hours flown during Sheldon’s command. “I am truly humbled by the constant dedication of our Soldiers from early morning musters to late night flights, this team has accomplished its mission safely and with a positive attitude.” 

In his remarks, Lewis thanked his family for their support and reaffirmed his oath as an officer and said he had two additional promises to add to that oath.

“One, I will always give you 100 percent of what I have,” he said. “Two, I will make mistakes, but rest assured every decision made will place the needs of the mission and the welfare of the Soldiers above my own.” 

Prior to taking command of the 2-224th, Lewis served as the commander of the Counterdrug Task Force. 

Lt. Col. Matthew Lewis delivers his remarks after taking command of Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division in a traditional change of command ceremony held July 26, 2020, at the Virginia National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

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