GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — After 26 years of Air Force service, township resident Mark Loeben was promoted to brigadier general on his 49th birthday Tuesday, just in time for the Fourth of July.
A military promotion ceremony is a patriotic occasion, and even if the Fourth of July wasn’t so close, it would have seemed like it, Loeben said.
In the early part of his career, becoming a general was not something Loeben said he thought would happen, but as he advanced in his career and was promoted to colonel he started to look at what was next.
“I’ve really enjoyed serving, and it’s been a part of my life and my family’s life for a long time. I think I’ll just keep going until my boss says we’ve had enough of you,” he said.
Even though Loeben’s promotion ceremony was held at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Ocean County, the event still had a hometown feeling, with Galloway neighbors in attendance and Deacon Tom Sweeny from the Church of St. Mark and All Saints.
“It was really great to be able to celebrate in the middle of the summer with all my friends and family, and it just so happens that yesterday was my official promotion date and my 49th birthday,” said Loeben, who also works as a commercial air pilot.
As a reservist, Loeben serves as the mobilization assistant to the director of the Air Force’s legislative liaison office at the Pentagon. He has served as an active-duty airman and a reservist for nearly 26 years, including approximately 14 years at McGuire Air Force Base.
He served as an instructor pilot in the T-37, C-141 and KC-10 aircraft. As a command pilot, he has logged more than 4,700 flying hours in military aircraft.
Next month, Loeben and his family will leave their home in the Smithville section of Galloway and move to Germany for his two-year assignment at the Stuttgart Patch Base.
Loeben will assume duties as the director of analysis and assessments at the United States European Command Headquarters in Stuttgart.
“The kids are pretty excited and my wife is excited. It’s an adventure,” he said. “We’ve always been a military reserve family, and we didn’t think we have the chance to go and live overseas.”
The Loebens will live on the base, and his children — 13-year-old Kaitlyn and 14-year-old Sean — will attend Department of Defense schools there.
“The kids are very positive about it. Of course, they’re going to miss their friends. We’re going to add so much to our life being able to travel around Europe,” Loeben said.
Loeben’s wife, Kathleen, said Germany is not a new destination for her and her husband. The couple lived there right after they were married and their son was born there.
“Sean actually thinks that he’s German,” Kathleen said, laughing.
With one month until the Loebens leave New Jersey, Kathleen said, the enormity of the move is really starting to hit her, but she is also excited.
She said the biggest adjustment her children will have to make is becoming accustomed to the military lifestyle. Kaitlyn and Sean, whom Kathleen Loeben called adventurers, have been to Germany before.
When the couple told their children they were moving to Germany, Kaitlyn, who will be an eighth-grader, burst into tears and Sean was ecstatic, Kathleen Loeben said.
“When we were there before, you make friends very closely and quickly and they become like family. (We’ve) been at our home in Galloway for more than 10 years, so we have great neighbors. We have strong ties here, we love the beach. To be overseas far from our family and friends is going to be an adjustment,” she said.
The couple is also busy finishing details of the move — shipping their car, putting things in storage and preparing to move into a much smaller house.
The Loebens said they will rent their home for the next two years and will return to Galloway Township when Mark’s tour is complete.
Contact Donna Weaver:
Follow @DonnaKWeaver on Twitter