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'Flying Jennies' rebuilding at Keesler

Col. David Condit, 403rd Operations Group commander, passes the 815th Airlift Squadron guide on to Lt. Col. Stuart Rubio, 815th AS commander, during a change of command ceremony January 30, 2016, at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. Rubio took command of the 815th AS during the ceremony, which was held in the 815th AS building. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)

Col. David Condit, 403rd Operations Group commander, passes the 815th Airlift Squadron guide on to Lt. Col. Stuart Rubio, 815th AS commander, during a change of command ceremony January 30, 2016, at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. Rubio took command of the 815th AS during the ceremony, which was held in the 815th AS building. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Lt. Col. Stuart Rubio assumed command of the Air Force Reserve's 815th Airlift Squadron "Flying Jennies" from Lt. Col. Shannon Hailes Saturday.

As part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, the Air Force announced plans to transfer 10 of the 403rd Wing's C-130J aircraft. A 2015 report from the Secretary of the Air Force reversed that recommendation, beginning the programming and budgeting work to restore personnel and mission capability at Keesler.

Rubio, a C-130 pilot with 3,400 hours, comes to Keesler from the 48th Airlift Squadron, 314th Airlift Wing, Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, where he served as the director of operations.

Col. David J. Condit, 403rd Operations Group, presided over the ceremony, explained some of the challenges Rubio will face in rebuilding the squadron, which was slated to close until last year.

Condit thanked Hailes, who was originally charged with closing the squadron, for his service and taking care of the unit's Airmen and their families during the last year. He will move to another position in the 403rd Operations Group.

"It's been a very challenging time for the squadron and its personnel," said Condit, who added Hailes did an outstanding job during a tough time.

Rubio will be charged with rebuilding the unit, and is the right man with the right experience for the job, said Condit.

"He will lead this great squadron back to an era of combat capability that will make a powerful impact for this nation," he said. "We will let the world know that the 'Flying Jennies' are back."

The 815th AS is a tactical airlift unit in the 403rd Wing that transports supplies, equipment and personnel in a theater of operation. The unit received the first C-130J Super Hercules aircraft in the Air Force inventory in 1999 and the wing flies and maintains 10 of those aircraft.

The C-130 can operate from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas. In September 2009, the Flying Jennies deployed to Southwest Asia and set a world record for the maximum number of airdrop bundles delivered in a one-week period. The unit broke their own world-record several times in 2011 during a deployment to Afghanistan.

"I'm excited to work side-by-side with present and future members of the 815th Airlift Squadron and the rest of the 403rd Wing team, and to take on the challenge of rebuilding a squadron that has such a storied legacy," said Rubio.

The squadron's history dates back to World War II when it was originally activated as the 815th Bombardment Squadron flying B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft. Since then the squadron was inactivated and reactivated a few times before making Keesler Air Force Base its home in 1973. In addition to the aircraft it flies now, the squadron has flown the C-119 Flying Boxcar, C-130 Hercules, and WC-130 Hercules. The squadron has flown operations in Korea, Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

"There will be many challenges ahead of us; but in reality the goal is simple ... to bring the Flying Jennies back to the forefront of the tactical airlift community," he said. "With hard work and dedication we will succeed in reestablishing the 815th Airlift Squadron's rightful place as one of the most respected C-130J squadrons in the Total Force. This unit requires each and every one of you and your unique skills and perspectives to achieve our goal."

Rubio closed his comments with a sports adage, which he said will be his motto.

"Day by day we get better and better until we can't be beat, won't be beat; let's do this."