New Wing commander takes helm; encourages Airmen to use voices

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Marnee A. C. Losurdo
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

Col. Stuart M. Rubio took command of the 403rd Wing during a change of command ceremony at the Aero Repair Hangar today.

 Maj. Gen. John P. Healy, 22nd Air Force commander, officiated the ceremony.

“My priority for all of 22nd Air Force is to be ready now,” said the general. “I look at Stu to ensure the 403rd Wing has the training and preparation to continue to be a ready force, prepare to deploy, and serve our nation’s call.”

The 22nd AF commander stated how Rubio has the tenacity, discipline and dedication to take on his duties as wing commander and meet the three priorities of the 22nd: to attain and sustain ready units, to train and develop ready Airmen, and to modernize and reform for future combat capabilities.

“We continue to work towards these goals to continue to be successful at overcoming unique challenges, especially over this past year,” said the general. “I ask a lot because the mission of the Air Force and Air Force Reserve is so incredibly important. However, with great leaders like (Colonel) Jeff Van Dootingh and (Colonel) Stuart Rubio, through readiness, teamwork and reliability, we will continue to provide outstanding defense and capability to this nation. Thank you for everything you do for the Air Force, and I look forward to seeing continued greatness from the 403rd Wing.”

Rubio, a command pilot with over 4,000 flight hours in the C-130E/H3/J and WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft, deployed in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. He commissioned in May 1998 upon graduation from the United States Air Force Academy. After serving 20 years in the active Air Force, he retired in 2018 and transitioned to the Air Force Reserve under the Regular Air Force to Air Force Reserve Program. Rubio has been a member of the Wing since January 2016 and commanded and led the rebuild and regeneration of the 815th Airlift Squadron and then served as the 403rd Operations Group commander.

“I’m immeasurably excited to continue both serving and leading all of you,” said Rubio. “To be able to continue as a member of the team is an absolute dream for me and my family. I cannot wait to see the amazing things we will achieve in the future, and am extremely proud of what we’ve achieved in the last five years we’ve been here at Keesler, especially the challenges over the past 15 months.”

As the wing commander, Rubio will lead 1,900 Reserve Citizen Airmen and civilian professionals who train, equip, and employ airlift forces in support of the nation’s interests. This includes the only weather reconnaissance mission in the Department of Defense in addition to tactical airlift and airdrop, aeromedical evacuation and agile combat support.


The new commander thanked his family, base, wing and community leaders and then addressed the Wing. Rubio, who has a long family history of military service dating back to his great-great grandfather, told a story about his grandfather who was a meteorologist on a WB-50 Superfortress in Alaska. On takeoff, one of the younger members of the crew, a scanner, yelled reject, which stopped the takeoff. As a result, his quick actions saved the life of the crew and the aircraft, as a fire had been ignited near the landing gear.


“I tell this story, because there is a lesson to be learned 62 years later,” he said. “When I’m flying I tell the crew it doesn’t matter what your crew position is, it doesn’t matter what your experience level is, and it doesn’t matter what your rank is. If you see something wrong or have a better idea, you need to speak up. So, I need all of you, the members of the 403rd Wing, to embrace this concept in all aspects of your duties as an Airman.

“Every time you hear ‘Wing of Choice,’ think ‘I have a Voice,’” he said. “You have a voice if you have an idea of how our Wing could be doing something more efficiently or effectively or how we can accelerate change. You have a voice if you can think of a way we can better equip our Airmen to accomplish our many diverse missions. You have a voice if you know of ways we can work together better as a team. And, you have voice if you observe any type of harassment occurring in our Wing or if you or one of our Airmen is struggling. I know in my heart that there is no limit in what this Wing can achieve with the many diverse inputs and perspectives of every Airman in this ‘Wing of Choice,’ where ‘You have a Voice.’ Let’s do this.”

Outgoing commander, Col. Jeffrey A. Van Dootingh, also thanked everyone in the audience for their support and efforts during his two years here.

“To the men and women of the 403rd, it has been the honor of my career to serve with you,” said Van Dootingh. “I know you are the ‘Wing of Choice’ for a reason; you show it each and every day. It’s been just incredible for me to put this uniform on every day and come to work and watch you do what you do so well. Thank you, and fly, fight, and win.”

The colonel has commanded the Wing since June 2019, and led the Wing through the COVID-19 pandemic, meeting training and exercise requirements, deployments, hurricane evacuations and storm taskings during the third busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record.

“As commander of the 403rd, Colonel Van Dootingh has overseen the most visible Wing in the Air Force Reserve Command,” said the 22nd AF commander. “He’s done a fantastic job overseeing such a diverse mission set. While every commander acknowledges the importance of taking care of those who serve under them, he truly backed this up with action. Thanks for your leadership, professionalism, support, and your sense of humor. You’ve truly made a mark on the 403rd Wing.”

Van Dootingh will depart Keesler to assume command of the 910th Airlift Wing, Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, in a ceremony Sunday.