MacDill’s newest commanders: ready to lead despite COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shannon Bowman
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The month of June marked the beginning of the change of command season for MacDill AFB, with six Air Force leaders stepping into new command positions at the squadron level, and two assuming roles as group commanders.

The change of command ceremony is a deeply rooted military tradition, with symbolism that can be traced back to the 18th century. However, just as the operating environment of the Air Force has been forced to shift because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so too did the procedures of how new commanders are welcomed into their new assignments.

This year’s ceremonies would not feature the symbolic passing of the guidon from an outgoing commander to their incumbent marking the transition of responsibility, nor would entire units stand in formation to render their first salute to welcome their new commander.

Though many of the protocols and procedures that have long been associated with these historic events were absent during this year’s proceedings, the steadfast message of new commanders who are ready to lead their Airmen was unwavered.

At a change of command ceremony on June 5, 2020, Lt. Col. Ivan Blackwell assumed command of the 91st Air Refueling Squadron. He addressed his new squadron members in a video-recorded ceremony by thanking them for their contributions to the 91st ARS’s success and stating that he looks forward to serving as their new commander.

 “Fellow Bolts, you continue to add to the 91st ARS’s rich history every day,” said Blackwell. “People rely on us on to do the job right every time, and my commitment to you is to give you my best.”

The 6th Medical Support Squadron was second in line to welcome their new commander Lt. Col. Ann McManis, on June 11, 2020, who gave remarks during a broadcasted change of command ceremony.

“To the Airman and civilians of the 6th MDSS, I am proud and humbled to be joining this amazing team of professionals,” said McManis. By taking care of each other and working together to accomplish the mission, I am positive that we will do great things for our patients and for the MacDill community.”

At MacDill’s third change of command ceremony, held on June 12, 2020, the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron, welcomed Lt. Col. Christopher Martagon as their new commander.

“To the men and women of the 6th LRS, thank you for your service and sacrifice,” said Martagon. “Listening to the incredible achievements that this squadron has attained reaffirms how grateful I am to be here. I look forward to working with you and more importantly, working for you.”

The 6th Communications Squadron then welcomed Lt. Col. Justin Ellsworth as their new commander on June 22, 2020. Ellsworth provided remarks to the 6th CS during a recorded change of command ceremony.

“To the Airmen of the 6th CS, I look forward to getting to know you and serving alongside each and every one of you” said Ellsworth. “We will continue to dominate the mission of delivering world class communications.”

On June 23, 2020, Lt. Col. James Lupher assumed command of the 6th Force Support Squadron, and during the recorded change of command ceremony, Lupher explained that he is grateful for the opportunity to serve as the new 6th FSS commander, and that he is truly humbled to be a part of this incredible team.

Col. Jason Lochinskey, was next up at MacDill to take position as the new commander of the 6th Mission Support Group, on June 24, 2020. In a recorded change of command ceremony Lochinskey stated that he does not take this new responsibility lightly, and he outlined his three expectations for the members of the 6th MSG.

“First, be a professional – represent yourself and your unit in a respectful manner, and strive to do better today than you did yesterday,” said Lochinskey. “Second, be committed – be committed to your country, to our Air Force, to your families and to all of the values that you hold true. And third, be a problem solver – never pass an opportunity to fix something that is broken or not right.”

At the 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s change of command ceremony, on June 25, 2020, Maj. Jennifer Lindberg, was welcomed as the new 6th AMXS commander.

“To my 6th AMXS Airmen, I am absolutely honored and thrilled to be given the opportunity to lead you as your commander,” said Lindberg. “Today marks a lifelong dream for myself and my family, to be given the responsibility to lead all of you in executing our critical mission to enable global air refueling at a moment’s notice. Ducks, let’s get started.”

The 6th Medical Group was the final unit to at MacDill to hold a change of command ceremony during the busy month of June, as they welcomed Col. Courtney Finkbeiner as the new 6th MDG commander.

“Whatever the new norm becomes, whatever the future brings, I’m ready,” said Finkbeiner. “With the mighty medics of the 6th MDG by my side, we will conquer the storm.”

Though the change of command season on base looked dramatically different than in years past, the prestige of the ceremonies remained the same. MacDill’s command team expressed their gratitude to the newest squadron and group commanders for their willingness to adapt to the challenge of holding their change of command ceremonies while adhering to the social distancing guidelines.

“It is not lost on me that our outgoing and incoming commanders missed out on key movements and protocols during this year’s change of command ceremonies,” said Col. Travis Edwards, the 6th Air Refueling Wing vice commander. “However, the honor of command remains the same, and the continuity of command continues.”

The 6th Air Refueling Wing leadership team has expressed its confidence in all of its newest squadron and group commanders, and would like to extend a warm welcome to them and their families to Team MacDill.