CHIÈVRES, Belgium — As he said farewell to his unit, Lt. Col. Mark Gaubert said he realized what he had learned as a squadron commander.
His three-and-a-half years in the 309th Airlift Squadron all came down to what he witnessed in one day.
While he and his family were preparing to depart Chièvres, Belgium, he noticed a group of servicemembers and their families who had given their time to cook meals for guests at their hotel.
They were strangers to most, but they weren’t strangers to Colonel Gaubert. He looked around and saw numerous 309th Airmen and families scattered about the church group.
Then, moments later, he saw another Airman delivering an armful of groceries to a newcomer who had just arrived to the unit.
“I learned the soul of the 309th Airlift Squadron and the power of that soul,” he said.
He reflected back on how the generosity he saw that day was evident every day in the 309th.
“Firefighters will work long 12-hour shifts and then get up the next morning to work four Memorial Day ceremonies,” Colonel Gaubert said.
He said he also saw families take care of their children all day and then go and teach others a class on financial readiness.
“You always find time to dig deeper to help others,” Colonel Gaubert told his unit during his change of command ceremony May 26. “It speaks to the soul of our Air Force, our military, our joint coalition team. Keep doing what you’re doing. Maintain your soul.”
Like his Airmen and their families, Colonel Gaubert also put his heart and soul into the unit, said Col. Jon Thomas, 86th Operations Group commander.
And Colonel Gaubert’s performance as a leader went even further, Colonel Thomas said.
“Commanders are measured not by their personal deeds alone, but instead by success of their units. That is where the true story is told,” Colonel Thomas said before presenting Colonel Gaubert with a Meritorious Service Medal.
Colonel Thomas said the 309th Airlift Squadron achieved perfection in the accomplishment of its mission, which is to provide airlift to the supreme allied commander, Europe and airfield support to SHAPE.
He added that the unit also performed outstanding on inspection visits and partnered with the Royal Netherlands Air Force in a training first for the U.S. military.
“Success in such an environment requires teamwork at all levels from the Airmen to the commander,” Colonel Thomas said.
After the unit presented Colonel Gaubert with a final salute, with the SACEUR’s plane peering through the hangar doors in the background, Lt. Col. Michael Dickinson, the unit’s former director of operations and deputy commander, assumed command of the unit.
“Lieutenant Colonel Dickinson has proven dedication and judgment. He’s up for the challenge,” Colonel Thomas said.
With a mix of humor and instant leadership and direction, Colonel Dickinson addressed the Airmen.
“I’m thrilled to be up here,” he said. “This is the third best day of my life.”
The other two best days were his parents’ wedding day and the day his wife said she would marry him, he said.
After a few laughs and many thanks to his family and Belgian friends who attended the ceremony, Colonel Dickinson immediately laid out his guidance and five leadership priorities.
“First, I have very high expectations of you, and I’m going to hold you to those standards,” he said, adding that the unit already performs at a standard of perfection. “Second, your families are important to me because they’re important to you. Next, empowerment is critical. I believe every Airman in this command can be a leader.”
He also said he wants to strive to improve processes and plans to live his life according to the core values.
“I’m ready to get to work for you guys,” he told the unit before they presented their first salute to him as the commander.
Colonel Thomas told Colonel Dickinson he should lead the unit with passion and lead them with compassion.
“We’re saying goodbye to one of our commanders, but we’re continuing the tradition of excellence with another commander,” he said.