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Meet the vice: Passionate about planes and people

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --

Like many Air Force stories, it all started with...planes.

It's hard to imagine the approachable, even-keeled Col. Lars Hubert, 52nd Fighter Wing vice commander, as a child running under roaring planes as they flew overhead at Kelley Air Force Base, San Antonio. But one of his most formative memories was when he sat on his dad's lap in the cockpit of a Douglas C-47 Skytrain and took in the dials and buttons with the wide eyes of a child.

"I have wanted to be in the Air Force since I was knee high," Hubert said with a smile. "I grew up around planes and the Air Force lifestyle."

His father was the first person in his family to join the Air Force, but he wasn't the last. Hubert and his two brothers commissioned into the Air Force after years of watching their hero work and fly in the Air Force.

"My dad was the example for me as a kid," Hubert said. "He taught me that it is about seeing what is important out there and serving a cause that is bigger than you."

It wasn't really ever a question of what he was going to do with his life, it was just when: His heart was set on the Air Force. Hubert was accepted to the Air Force Academy after years of working hard for good grades and a well-rounded résumé of jobs and sports. Thanks to his passion for aviation and penchant for hard work during his college years, Hubert received a pilot training slot at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and upon graduation from pilot training, he went to fly a C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft.

Hubert said his ultimate dream was to fly fighters, but it wasn't in the cards just yet; he commissioned right after Operation Desert Storm, and almost half the fighter squadrons were cut from the Air Force - no fighter cockpits were available. But Hubert didn't mind. He happily selected and flew the Hercules for four years and loved the unique mission of tactical airlift. But when the Air Force needed fighter pilots again, he was one of 100 pilots to cross-flow into fighters from the mobility air forces. His dream to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft had come true.

But while planes may have brought him into the Air Force, people are what keep him here. His dad taught him that being a part of the Air Force family means being a part of something greater than yourself, but Hubert also knows that it's the cogs in the machine -- the Airmen-- that also make the Air Force worthwhile.

"I love to interact with people, one-on-one as often as possible ... it makes a difference when you can relate to someone and engage them as a person," said Hubert on his leadership philosophy. "I am a firm believer in the fact that if you take care of the people, the people will take care of the mission. That's key to being a leader and a mentor."

To Hubert, those roles are incredibly important for the success of the Air Force. One of his bosses, a fighter squadron commander, was the first one to sit down and map out a realistic goal driven career plan. This act of service and caring impacted him so much that he did it for his own people when he was a squadron commander.

"Being a squadron commander had a huge impact on me. More so than at any time in my career, I felt that I was able to have a direct influence on my unit's cohesion and pride, but more important to me was the influence on my Airmen's personal goals and careers; whether that be securing a coveted assignment or an above-the-zone promotion," Hubert said about his experience as a commander of a fighter squadron. "My involvement made a difference to them, which made it all worthwhile for me -- job satisfaction was off the chart!"

As a leader at Spangdahlem, Hubert values leading Airmen to accomplish the mission and watching people grow and advance in skills, promotions and leadership.

But you don't have to be a vice commander, or even a supervisor, to lead. Hubert believes whole-heartedly that leadership is not restricted to a job title.

"Leaders at all levels make an impact every day," Hubert said, referencing the effect that unit-level and informal leaders have in the Air Force. "The leaders at the lower levels are the ones to make the larger impact, not me."

In the end, Hubert has one piece of advice for his fellow Airmen: care.

"Care about the task you perform every day, no matter what the job, because it is critical to the success of your unit, the Air Force, our military and the U.S.," Hubert said. "And care about the Air Force family around you. Know when they need a helping hand ... they will do the same for you."