RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The change-of-command ceremony on Monday had some familiar trappings for the newest leader of the 86th Airlift Wing, Brig. Gen. Patrick X. Mordente.
He knows Ramstein. He flew C-130s out of the base for more than three years in the early 1990s as an Air Force captain.
And Mordente knows Brig. Gen. Charles K. Hyde, the commander he succeeds. Both graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1987 — Mordente with a Bachelor’s degree in engineering mechanics. As a lieutenant colonel in 2004, Mordente took command of the 39th Airlift Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, from Hyde.
This time, however, for Mordente, whose last assignment was U.S. Transportation Command deputy director of operations and plans at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., the stage is much larger.
The 86th Airlift Wing — with more than 8,000 airmen — is U.S. Air Forces in Europe–Air Forces Africa’s largest wing. It supports three combatant commands and is a key player in combat, contingency and humanitarian operations in Europe and Africa.
Such was the case during Hyde’s nearly two-year tenure, especially in response to the dramatic events that unfolded on Sept. 11, 2012 in Libya, as noted before hundreds of airmen and civilians during Monday’s ceremony inside the base’s open dual-bay aircraft hangar.
After the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed, the wing provided the first airlift and security team assets in country, deploying more than 300 airmen, according to Hyde’s award citation for the Legion of Merit, first oak leaf cluster.
“Significantly this wing repatriated our four lost comrades” and rescued additional evacuees from the country, said Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, Third Air Force commander and the ceremony’s presiding officer, during his remarks.
Franklin said that under Hyde, the wing “has accomplished much for our airmen both at home and abroad. The 86th Airlift Wing stands as the current workhorse and gateway to Europe and Africa.”
Hyde is moving on to Manitoba, where he’ll be the deputy commander of Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Region and deputy commander for operations, 1st Air Division.
While leading military operations for the wing, Hyde also implemented several new policies at Ramstein, including no early-morning alcohol sales from the base shoppettes in Kaiserslautern, and no alcohol possession or consumption in the Air Force dormitories.
In his speech, he talked about the diverse duties or accomplishments of seven airmen and a local national working for the wing, his voice breaking with emotion when speaking of Master Sgt. Chris Ramakka, an explosive ordnance disposal flight chief who “is in Southwest Asia on his third deployment after losing his leg in Afghanistan in 2005.”
“It has been a great honor to serve with these warriors who represent all of the airmen in the 86th Airlift Wing,” Hyde said.
Mordente in brief remarks said that “our purpose and our efforts at Ramstein will continue to remain on speed and on course.
“We will focus on our people and our mission,” he said. “We will continue to produce the combat delivery and mobility, contingency response and cyber capabilities upon which our nation and allies depend.”