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The 86th Airlift Wing's socially distanced change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020. Brig. Gen. Joshua M. Olsen took command from Brig. Gen. Mark R. August.
The 86th Airlift Wing's socially distanced change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020. Brig. Gen. Joshua M. Olsen took command from Brig. Gen. Mark R. August. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
The 86th Airlift Wing's socially distanced change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020. Brig. Gen. Joshua M. Olsen took command from Brig. Gen. Mark R. August.
The 86th Airlift Wing's socially distanced change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020. Brig. Gen. Joshua M. Olsen took command from Brig. Gen. Mark R. August. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
From left, 3rd Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Randall Reed, outgoing commander of the 86th Airlift Wing, Brig. Gen. Mark R. August and the incoming commander Brig. Gen. Joshua M. Olsen stand at the wing's change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020.
From left, 3rd Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Randall Reed, outgoing commander of the 86th Airlift Wing, Brig. Gen. Mark R. August and the incoming commander Brig. Gen. Joshua M. Olsen stand at the wing's change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Master Sgt. Timothy Stombaugh, a drummer with the USAFE band, keeps his eye on a bandmate as they entertain before the 86th Airlift Wing change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020.
Master Sgt. Timothy Stombaugh, a drummer with the USAFE band, keeps his eye on a bandmate as they entertain before the 86th Airlift Wing change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Outgoing 86th Airlift Wing commander Brig. Gen. Mark R. August, left, and incoming commander Brig. Gen. Joshua Olsen chuckle during a speech by 3rd Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Ronald Reed, at the 86th's change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7. 2020. At center is Chief Master Sgt. Tommy Childers with the unit guidon.
Outgoing 86th Airlift Wing commander Brig. Gen. Mark R. August, left, and incoming commander Brig. Gen. Joshua Olsen chuckle during a speech by 3rd Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Ronald Reed, at the 86th's change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7. 2020. At center is Chief Master Sgt. Tommy Childers with the unit guidon. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Outgoing 86th Airlift Wing commander Brig. Gen. Mark R. August speaks before turning over command to Brig. Gen. Joshua M. Olsen at the change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020.
Outgoing 86th Airlift Wing commander Brig. Gen. Mark R. August speaks before turning over command to Brig. Gen. Joshua M. Olsen at the change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Third Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Randall Reed prepares to return the salute from the new commander of the 86th Airlift Wing, Brig. Gen. Joshua M. Olsen, at the unit's change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020. At center is Chief Master Sgt. Tommy Childers with the unit guidon.
Third Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Randall Reed prepares to return the salute from the new commander of the 86th Airlift Wing, Brig. Gen. Joshua M. Olsen, at the unit's change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020. At center is Chief Master Sgt. Tommy Childers with the unit guidon. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Senior Airman Trevor Gillett salutes the new commander of the 86th Airlift Wing, Brig. Gen. Josh M. Olsen after unveiling his name on a C-130 aircraft during the unit's change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020. At right, Tech. Sgt. Sean Taylor holds the nameplate of the outgoing commander, Brig. Gen. Mark R. August.
Senior Airman Trevor Gillett salutes the new commander of the 86th Airlift Wing, Brig. Gen. Josh M. Olsen after unveiling his name on a C-130 aircraft during the unit's change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 7, 2020. At right, Tech. Sgt. Sean Taylor holds the nameplate of the outgoing commander, Brig. Gen. Mark R. August. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The largest U.S. Air Force wing in Europe welcomed a new commander Friday at a ceremony where public health guidance trumped tradition.

Brig. Gen. Joshua M. Olson took command of the 86th Airlift Wing from Brig. Gen. Mark R. August in an open-door hangar next to Ramstein’s flight line.

There were no bleachers and guests sat far apart in folding chairs, holding face masks alongside printed programs in their laps. In a break from tradition, the passing of the wing colors, where the outgoing commander hands the guidon to the new boss, was skipped.

The receiving line, where airmen say farewell to the old commander, also was omitted. Elbow bumps replaced handshakes among the official party on stage.

Being here feels “definitely different, trying to pull off a change of command in a COVID environment,” August said.

Olson, like all incoming airmen from the U.S. is subject to a 14-day quarantine and returned to his lodging after the ceremony.

Ramstein is familiar to Olson, whom like August previously commanded the wing’s 37th Airlift Squadron. He spent the last month as the executive officer for the head of U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force, Ill. Prior to that he commanded the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.

While Olson was in charge at McConnell, the base finished runner-up to August and Ramstein in 2019 as the Air Force’s best installation.

Olson told airmen the wing needs their leadership to “expedite global mobility and air power throughout Europe and Africa” and also to “overcome COVID through strict discipline, common sense and accountability.”

August commanded the wing for two years, overseeing seven groups, 29 squadrons and 8,500 personnel at four bases in Germany, Spain, Belgium and Portugal. He’s moving to the Pentagon to be the director of Air Force global reach programs, which includes work on critical aircraft acquisitions.

August’s leadership during the coronavirus pandemic got “us through a very dark period” due to strong relationships built with local leaders in the base’s surrounding communities, Maj. Gen. Randall Reed, 3rd Air Force commander, said at the ceremony.

August thanked airmen for their leadership and service.

“Thanks for letting me command the world’s best wing,” he said.

svan.jennifer@stripes.comTwitter: @stripesktown

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