Mission complete: parting words from Gen. Dillon

by Master Sgt. Michael Voss
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

As the 86th Airlift Wing prepares for Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon’s change of command ceremony Sept. 2, the day-to-day operations at the Gateway to Europe have not changed. Maintainers are still changing parts, medical technicians are still seeing patients and aircraft filled with deploying service members are still leaving the Ramstein flight line. But as the wheels of the commander’s C-130J Super Hercules touched ground, signifying the end of his final flight here, the general takes pride knowing his leadership helped enable this mission for the past two years.

Though serving as installation commander for a wing of more than 9,000 Airmen  that supports three wings, two numbered air forces, a major command and 14 geographically separated units is a challenge, since taking command in July 2009, Dillon has always looked for ways to more efficiently accomplish Ramstein’s mission and take care of Airmen and their families.

Before relinquishing command of the wing, the commander took some time to reflect on his time here and what he sees in Ramstein’s future.

What were your goals for Ramstein before getting here?
I knew in my discussions with Gen. (William) Bender (the former commander) that the wing had undergone a significant reorganization, so I developed my two-year plan. The first year was an internal review process. The goal was to mature and develop the new 86th Airlift Wing. That had grown from 2,000 to 9,000 personnel.

We had to work out the organizational structures to ensure that process worked smoothly. The second year was a focus of our external processes with a goal of ensuring the best possible support is provided to the greater KMC. Historically, the 86th Airlift Wing commander was dual-hatted as the KMC commander. But as we entered the second year, we found, due to some of the issues in KMC, the area would be better served by elevating the KMC commander to a three-star level.

How have those goals changed throughout your tenure?
Which ones were we able to accomplish and which ones had to be adjusted? Those were my two big goals (mature and develop the new 86th Airlift Wing and ensure the KMC the best possible support) when I got here, but the ultimate goal as a wing commander is to ensure the mission is complete and that I am able to hand a fully functional organization to Gen. (Charles) Hyde on Sept. 2. Because we have some really incredible Airmen in this wing who have figured out how to fill in those blanks, we have been more successful than I imagined. I could not be prouder of the Airmen and families of the 86th Airlift Wing.

What message do you want to leave Ramstein?
The biggest message I have is thank you. Thank you to the entire 86th Airlift Wing team at Ramstein and across the KMC. I know a lot of great work goes on here every day and I haven’t said it enough, so thank you to you and your families.
What do you expect to see in the future from Ramstein?

Ramstein and the KMC are areas of vital U.S. and NATO strategic importance, and regardless of what happens in the world it will remain that way. Ramstein and the KMC remain an important location for (U.S. Air Forces in Europe) in order to ensure strategic access, defer our potential enemies and build partner capacity.

What’s next for you and your family?
We are off to the Pentagon to work for the secretary of the Air Force on international affairs. We have been there before, about 11 years ago, but we hate to leave Germany. But duty calls and we are very happy that we have had the opportunity to be a part of this amazing team for the past couple years. The entire Dillon family will miss Germany, our great friends and the amazing mission of the 86th Airlift Wing.

What do you expect the future holds for tomorrow’s Airmen?
I think the future for today’s Airmen holds a lot of uncertainty and turbulence, but I can think of no finer organization to face these challenges head on than the U.S. Air Force and our amazing Airmen. Airmen will figure it out and get the mission accomplished. Every time I get to talk to our young Airmen I find they know this, they know what they signed up for but they will rise to the challenges as they always have throughout history.