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Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Bishop Jr., vice commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, stands at attention while Brig. Gen. Rob Kane, center, and Col. Richard Johnston, right, salute during a change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Johnston replaced Kane as commander of the 86th Airlift Wing and the Kaiserslautern community Friday.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Bishop Jr., vice commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, stands at attention while Brig. Gen. Rob Kane, center, and Col. Richard Johnston, right, salute during a change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Johnston replaced Kane as commander of the 86th Airlift Wing and the Kaiserslautern community Friday. (Christina Rumsey / U.S. Air Force)
Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Bishop Jr., vice commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, stands at attention while Brig. Gen. Rob Kane, center, and Col. Richard Johnston, right, salute during a change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Johnston replaced Kane as commander of the 86th Airlift Wing and the Kaiserslautern community Friday.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Bishop Jr., vice commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, stands at attention while Brig. Gen. Rob Kane, center, and Col. Richard Johnston, right, salute during a change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Johnston replaced Kane as commander of the 86th Airlift Wing and the Kaiserslautern community Friday. (Christina Rumsey / U.S. Air Force)
Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Bishop Jr., left, vice commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, hands the guidon to Col. Richard Johnston during a change of command ceremony Friday at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Bishop Jr., left, vice commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, hands the guidon to Col. Richard Johnston during a change of command ceremony Friday at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (Christina Rumsey / U.S. Air Force)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — A C-130 pilot with 24 years in service will command the 86th Airlift Wing and oversee the U.S. military’s largest community outside the United States.

Air Force Col. Richard Johnston replaced Brig. Gen. Rob Kane during a formal ceremony Friday in one of Ramstein Air Base’s aircraft hangars.

He will oversee one of the Air Force’s busiest airlift wings and a U.S. military community with a population of about 54,000 Americans. He warned airmen in the crowd that although they have been extremely busy the last several years, there is more hard work for the wing and the base.

“Our responsibility will not diminish,” Johnston said. “Much will be required of us.”

Several hundred airmen and German political leaders attended the ceremony. Johnston’s daughter, Jennifer, sang the national anthem.

Johnston, who has 4,200 flying hours in the C-130E/H, KC-10A and WC-130E/H, said replacing Kane will “be no easy chore,” but he is “deeply humbled and honored” to be commander. The 86th Airlift Wing consists of four groups, 14 squadrons and one detachment. The unit’s primary mission is to conduct airlift, airdrop and aeromedical evacuation missions.

As wing commander, Johnston also serves as the Kaiserslautern military community’s top officer, overseeing support of servicemembers living and working in the area.

Kane, whose new assignment will be deputy director of operations and training for the Air Staff at the Pentagon, will be leaving after about 2½ years at Ramstein. During that period, he oversaw the base’s largest expansion since it was built in the 1950s. Last December, the Air Force closed Rhein-Main Air Base in Frankfurt and established Ramstein as the U.S. military’s premier airlift hub in Europe.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon named Ramstein the top Air Force base.

In an emotional farewell speech, Kane thanked a long list of people.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to be your commander,” he said, holding back tears.

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