JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. — The 192nd Wing welcomed a new commander during a change of command ceremony Aug. 11, 2019, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey L. Ryan, Air Component Commander, Virginia National Guard, presided over the ceremony where Col. Frank J. Lobash relinquished command to Col. Mark D. Piper.
Ryan remarked on the legacy Lobash was leaving behind from his time as the wing commander and the impact he had on not only the wing but each Airman.
“[Lobash], you have ably led the wing during the most dynamic period in the Virginia Air Guard’s history,” said Ryan. “You drove the wing to operational excellence and a readiness level that our nation demands. And when the call came for RED HORSE, cyber operations, intel, security forces, F-22 ops and maintenance, and all across the wing, your leadership made it happen. The list of accomplishments of these Airmen is too numerous to recount.”
During Lobash’s command, the 192nd Wing earned the Air Force Meritorious Unit Award. Airmen from the 192nd Wing participated in numerous deployments supporting Operation Inherent Resolve and several locations in Southwest Asia, played a critical role in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and flew more than 16,000 F-22 hours in support of the fight against ISIS. On the home front, 192nd Airmen also supported the presidential and gubernatorial inaugurations, assisted the Commonwealth and its citizens during hurricane relief efforts, mobilized across the United States providing expertise from cyber operations to multinational exercises including Atlantic Trident and Northern Edge.
“As a legacy, you should be extremely proud, but I would submit to you that you have an even bigger legacy,” said Ryan. “As I spent time yesterday visiting with Airmen across the wing, they shared with me the personal impact that you had on them, their careers and their families. You have touched us all in ways that brought out the best in each one of us, and I can think of no better way to say it than to simply say, you are the VaANG.”
Recollecting on his time as the wing commander, Lobash explained what “I am the VaANG” has come to mean.
“Those are four words that I used two years ago to ask each of you to take a leap with me,” said Lobash. “At the beginning, maybe it was just a logo, maybe it seemed like it was a catchy phrase that we could say, but together I believe we’ve defined what the meaning of those four words were. Afterall, the place that inspired those four words was being around you, the Airmen of the 192nd. I saw a spark and a potential in every single one of you… the one thing that I saw was your potential and the fact that every single person in this room chooses to serve, nobody forces you, you choose to serve… it’s that service that drives what we do and makes us who we are.”
“We’ve always been there over the last two years,” continued Lobash. “We’ve exceeded expectations and that is due to your hard work and your commitment. I believe you’ve laid the foundation with momentum for an absolute spectacular way ahead. So in today’s great power competition with Russia and China as the national defense strategy clearly spells out, it’s not an option to stand still… So I ask that you take that and move forward and realize that now we’ve come to know that ‘I am the VaANG’ is actually the self actualization of every single Airman in this wing. You’ve made the leap with me, and I thank you for that. You’ve served your community, you’ve served your commonwealth, and you’ve served your country, and I ask that you continue that. I salute you. I trust you. And please know, I am the VaANG.”
After the men and women of the 192nd Wing presented Lobash with a final salute, Ryan performed the change of command. Ryan passed the guidon to Piper, ceremonially marking his start as the wing commander.
“[Piper], as we stand here today, our Airmen from across the wing are mobilized and deployed across the globe,” said Ryan. “Whether it be the current global threat, future missions, or the unknown, it is your job to make sure we are always ready when the nation calls or when the Commonwealth calls. The readiness of our Airmen is job one. You are bringing a wealth of experience and a new perspective to the wing. Know that you are joining a team of professionals that represent the very best that our nation has to offer, and they stand ready for your leadership and welcome you and your family wholeheartedly into the VaANG family.”
As the new wing commander, Piper thanked Lobash for his leadership and expertise.
“The example that you have set for us, the amount of care that you have for the men and women in this wing, is second to none, and your influence will inspire me and everyone in this room for decades to come,” said Piper. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for the VaANG.”
Piper, previously the Joint Staff liaison to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, served 11 years on active duty, deployed several times to the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility, and is a command pilot with more than 2,400 hours in the F-16 to include over 300 combat hours in support of Operations Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Upon accepting the position as the 192nd Wing commander, Piper transferred to the VaANG and attended transitional Raptor school to become an F-22 pilot.
“To the men and women of the 192nd…,” said Piper. “This wing does not belong to me; this wing belongs to us. And it starts with me earning your trust, and I intend to do that. Thank you for being professional, thank you for being open minded, and I’m sure we can tackle all the challenges that will face us in the future. I appreciate you for what you do for that.”
“Thank you for what you do, serving our nation and serving the commonwealth and the demands that that places is not always easy and I know that. It takes sacrifice and it takes dedication…,” said Piper. “…what you do matters, what you do makes a difference, and what you do is appreciated. It begins with each one of us, and together as we do our jobs, that’s what allows this 192nd team to do what we do. Really doesn’t matter if we’re assisting local communities in a time of disaster or sending raptors to the other side of the world, it’s one team and we all contribute to it. So I say thank you for your service, it is the privilege of a lifetime to join this team, and it’s something I’ve been waiting to say for a while and now I get to say, I am the VaANG.”