403rd Operations Group gets new boss

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  • By 403rd Wing Public Affairs

Lt. Col. Stuart M. Rubio assumed command of the 403rd Operations Group in a ceremony presided over by Col. Jeffrey A. Van Dootingh, 403rd Wing commander, at Keesler Air Force Base in the Roberts Consolidated Maintenance Facility Auditorium Dec. 7.

Rubio is responsible for all matters pertaining to the operational readiness and effectiveness of the Operations Group that includes 20 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, two operational weather flights, operations support squadron, tactical airlift squadron, aeromedical evacuation squadron, and the only weather reconnaissance squadron in the Department of Defense.

“I’m really excited to take on this new challenge, to expand on what I’ve done in the past, but to make sure we accomplish our missions in an exceptional way,” said Rubio, who previously served as the 815th Airlift Squadron commander, both as an active duty and reserve member.

The wing commander spoke about the kind of military background he wanted in the person to lead the 403rd Operations Group. 

“We have always heard the phrase, ‘The right Airman for the right job, at the right time.’ But what does that mean? What does that look like?” said Van Dootingh. “Well I think that looks like Stu Rubio.”

Rubio, an Air Force Academy graduate and command pilot with more than 4,00 hours, served 20 years in the active Air Force then retired in 2018, transition to the Air Force Reserve under the Regular Air Force to Air Force Reserve Program. Throughout his career, he has held several positions to include instructor and evaluator pilot, executive officer, director of operations, wing chief of safety, and squadron commander.

The wing commander went on to explain saying that the right time for a new commander is now. A time in this nation’s history when every Airman, who raises their hand to serve has nearly 100% chance of going into harm’s way, and era of challenges associated with less manpower and budget constraints.

“The flip side is that the Air Force hasn’t taken anything off of our plate,” said Van Dootingh. “We are still being asked to do everything despite those challenges, and it’s probably not going to get any easier. So the time is right to get a new commander in place.”

Van Dootingh explained that Rubio has, “been there and done that,” and has C-130 time, flown around the world and into combat, and has tactical, strategic and operational experience.

“He’s going to take the operations group where it needs to go,” he said.

Rubio reflected on how he planned to guide the OG.

“There is a uniqueness to what our group does and the strength of these units is not by what they do, but who does it. But all of us together are a force to be reckoned with. We must continue to work as one team.

“My mantra will be ‘many missions, one team… leading the way,’” Rubio said. “I am truly excited to be the group commander, and I can’t wait to see where we take this.”