New 86th Airlift Wing commander has Ramstein connection
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 19, 2015
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — A ceremony makes it official: A new face is in charge of the largest U.S. Air Force wing in Europe.
At a change-of-command ceremony Friday morning, inside a hangar packed with airmen and German guests from surrounding communities, Brig. Gen. Jon T. “Ty” Thomas took charge of the 86th Airlift Wing, succeeding outgoing commander Brig. Gen. Patrick X. Mordente.
“It’s been an absolute joy. It’s been a privilege to be here for two years,” Mordente said in an interview before the ceremony. “To be able to watch what these airmen do every day; this base never sleeps. We’re constantly on the move.”
Mordente has orders for Scott Air Force Base, Ill., where he’s slated to become the vice commander of 18th Air Force, Air Mobility Command.
Thomas, meanwhile, comes to Ramstein from the Pentagon, where he served on the joint staff.
He’s been here before. In 2006, he was the deputy commander of the 603rd Air and Space Operations Center at Ramstein for a year, followed by another two years at Ramstein as the 86th Operations Group commander.
“I know it’s welcome home again,” 3rd Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Darryl L. Roberson, the ceremony’s presiding officer, told Thomas.
In his remarks, Roberson quipped about Thomas: “See how big a smile he’s got on his face, ’cause he escaped the Pentagon. He’s back out now, where he should be.”
Thomas, a command pilot with more than 3,900 flight hours, graduated with distinction from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1989. Upon graduation, the Air Force selected him for a special program that allowed him to earn a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University.
“You can expect me to give my best every day,” Thomas told airmen in his speech, “leading with passion and compassion for you and your families.”
Mordente said he leaned on others to lead a wing of more than 9,000 airmen.
“There’s no playbook for Ramstein,” he said in the interview. “We affectionately call it ‘the beast’; it’s just so huge and [has] so many mission sets. I slept well at night because I knew how good this team was.”
Mordente led the wing during Operation United Assistance, the U.S. military mission to help combat the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa last year.
“A lot of the cargo, equipment, personnel, came through this base,” he said. “You look back on that event and you see that we were rather effective in being able to curb that outbreak.”
Airmen living in the dormitories while Mordente was commander will likely remember him for lifting the ban on alcohol in their living quarters. The ban was lifted in August 2014.
Mordente said it was the right decision to treat airmen like adults; there’s been no subsequent uptick in alcohol-related incidents in the dorms since then, he said.
“I’m extremely proud of the airmen and what they were able to show us,” he said.