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Slabaugh takes command of 74th ARS

WELCOME ABOARD:Lt. Col. Matt Slabaugh, 74th Air Refueling Squadron Commander, poses for a photo in front of the 74th ARS seal at Grissom Air Reserve Base on Nov. 14. Slabaugh recently took command of the 74th after the retirement of Lt. Col. Brian Burr.

BY Senior Airman Harrison Withrow - 434th ARW Public Affairs

GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE — Lt. Col. Matt Slabaugh recently took on the role of 74th Air Refueling Squadron Commander after 11 years of flying with the unit.

Slabaugh, who is filling the position left by Lt. Col. Brian Burr, said he was excited to be taking the reins for the squadron.

“The previous commander did an outstanding job,” he said. “I’m just hoping that I can live up to the standard he set.

“This is the best squadron out there, and I’m so honored to have this opportunity,” Slabaugh added. “I know every commander probably says that, but I absolutely believe it.”

Slabaugh said he had no immediate changes planned for the unit, and instead wanted to focus on maintaining the 74th ARS’s reputation for success.

“For me, it’s all about the mission,” he said. “We’ve been on a great track for a long time, and now it’s my turn to make sure we stay on that track.”

One concern Slabaugh expressed was the shortage of new pilots.

“It’s become essential that we recruit more pilots to the unit,” he said. “To do that, I need to ensure that we’re creating an environment which will attract those pilots here.

“The civilian market for aviators is very lucrative right now, so we have to go the extra mile to convince pilots that this is where they should be,” he added.

When Slabaugh isn’t flying the KC-135R Stratotanker, he works as both a farmer and an agriculture consultant.

“I raise 500 cattle and farm about 2,000 acres with my business partner,” he said. “I grew up in a farming family, so in 2006 when my daughter was born and my wife didn’t want me going back to the airlines, that’s when I started my agriculture company.”

Slabaugh put the money he earned flying for the Air Force Reserve toward growing the business, simultaneously building both careers while being able to spend time with his family.

“I think the best thing I’m going to bring to this job is experience,” he said. “I’ve seen 25 years of squadron commanders come and go, so I have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t, and how to motivate people.

“I’ve seen both the good and the bad, and I’m going to do my best to fall on the ‘good’ side,” Slabaugh added. “My many years running my own business have taught me to think long term and strategically, and I think that will help me be a better commander.”

For Slabaugh, a focus on the future is key to success.

“My number one focus is going to be how we handle the challenges ahead of us,” he said. “We can’t just worry about succeeding right now, we have to make sure we can carry that success into the future.”