JOINT BASE LEWIS-McChord, Wash. - The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade started the next chapter in its history as Col. Rob P. Dickerson relinquished command to Col. Paul A. Mele during a change of command ceremony July 19 at Watkins Field.
Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, 7th Infantry Division commander and presiding officer for the ceremony, stood with Dickerson and Mele in front of a formation filled with soldiers and helicopter airframes from three different locations.
“When Col. Dickerson took command in August 2011, he had a monumental task in front of him … build a combat aviation brigade from the ground up. It was Rob’s charge to establish the largest and most complex aviation brigade in the United States Army and to lead its soldiers to success, whether those soldiers were here at JBLM, Yakama Training Center or Alaska,” Lanza said.
JBLM is home to the brigade headquarters, 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 2-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 4-6th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron and 46th Aviation Support Battalion. The 1-52nd General Support Aviation Battalion and 6-17th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron are located at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
The brigade holds one company under 2-158th AHB at YTC.
Prior to the change of command, an award ceremony was held where Lanza presented Dickerson’s wife, Shelley, with an Outstanding Civilian Service Medal.
“During this change of command season, I have attended multiple battalion transitions in the Raptor Brigade. When the spouses of the brigade speak about Shelley, they use words like ‘leader,’ ‘resilient, ‘role model’ and ‘friend,’” Lanza said.
Dickerson thanked and praised his wife during an emotional farewell speech.
“To my wife, although you do not wear the uniform, I can think of no greater compliment than telling you that you are unquestionably the toughest soldier I know,” Rob Dickerson said. “In the past 24 months … you seemed to always put me first and gave your all to the brigade.”
Lanza presented Rob Dickerson with a Legion of Merit medal and inducted him into The Honorable Order of Saint Michael. The Honorable Order of Saint Michael Award recognizes individuals who have contributed significantly to the promotion of Army Aviation in ways that stand out in the eyes of the recipient's seniors, subordinates, and peers.
“Col. Dickerson leaves behind a great legacy … these soldiers standing in front of you,” Lanza said. “While it was not long ago they were meeting each other for the first time and establishing initial systems, now, they have completed fielding of two new aircraft and are now prepared to deploy units in support of operations in Afghanistan and the Pacific Rim.
“Rob’s leadership was essential to develop and implement a unique collective crew training program that created not only winning teams but expert teams filled with dedicated professionals.”
Dickerson, the first commander of the 16th CAB since its relocation to JBLM, handed over the brigade colors to his commanding general for the last time. With the brigade colors, he passed on the largest aviation brigade in the Army, which possesses the most modern airframes, a self-sustaining rapid refuel point and an award-winning dining facility.
Lanza passed the brigade colors with its brief, yet historical history off to Mele.
“With great trust, I know these same pillars of support [faith, family and the Army profession] will continue to sustain Julie [wife] and I throughout our service to this great team, a team ably built under the leadership of Col. Rob Dickerson and his wife,” Paul Mele said. “I am honored to serve alongside you [16th CAB soldiers], and I look forward to your many successes as we take on the challenges ahead.”