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Commander’s Column

Col James J. Keefe official photo.

Col James J. Keefe official photo.

104th Fighter Wing, Westfield, Mass. -- Six months ago, we announced that we were exploring a runway construction project that would greatly enhance our survivability here at Barnes. At the same time, I stated that there would be a lot of sacrifices required to make this happen, as we would have to relocate our flying operations. We finally have some answers to several questions that have been unresolved over the past several months, "some" funding, and a plan for our flying mission movement.

Approximately a month ago, the 1AF/CC decided to relocate our Aerospace Control Alert mission to Otis. This was largely due to the remaining maintenance facilities at Otis, as well as its proximity to Barnes. With the ACA mission at Otis, it made sense to co-locate our Continuation Training (CT) flying and maintenance capabilities together to enhance mission success. Additionally, Otis had excess facilities that were not being used, allowing us to house our maintenance and operations functions. However, due to limited funding, this option is now not feasible. Therefore, after several discussions with state and ANG leadership, our CT flying mission will be relocating to Westover Air Reserve Base. This course of action comes with challenges, as we have no maintenance facilities to use at Westover. Additionally, we will be split 3 ways; with ACA, CT, and most of the support functions at different locations. We are exploring the possibility of obtaining some temporary structures to house some of our maintenance functions at Westover; but due to lack of funding, the accommodations will be sparse at best. The exact timeline for these moves have not been decided, but it should be in late June/early July. We still have much work at both locations to make sure we are successful in the execution of our mission. I believe that if we pull together as a team, we will be successful, and I have no doubt in my military mind that we will be. The measure of our success during the relocation will be our ability to maintain our current levels of readiness for the CT mission, and meeting all response times and taskings for the ACA mission.

The construction projects that drive these moves are on schedule. It appears the runway will be closed for construction as early as mid-July for approximately six months. The funding for the runway rebuild and the ramp expansion also appear to be in place, and the projects are in the process of being awarded as I write this column. These projects will enhance our current flying operations as well as position us positively for future fighter missions. I would be remiss if I did not mention the hard work and dedication our 104CES/CC, Lt. Col. Denise Boyer, who has spearheaded these projects. We will unfortunately be losing Denise in August, as she returns to the ANGRC at Andrews AFB. Thanks Denise, you will be missed!

Lastly, we have a plan for our ACC/IG visit in October. The original ORI was switched to a smaller visit after we were informed of the runway project. The ACC/IG was planning on giving us a commander's assisted visit (CAV), looking at the various programs and processes that would be inspected during a normal ORI. I am happy to report that due to our upcoming moves, the IG has decided to complete a "virtual" CAV in lieu of an in-person inspection. I anticipate this inspection will be similar to a UCI, without inspectors here in person. I have never been involved in a virtual inspection or CAV, the exact depth of this look has yet to be determined. We will see the ACC/IG again in the future, but that is a couple of years off. We will be using our planned AT week in August to help prepare for the CAV. Expect more information to follow as it becomes available.

I want to thank all of you for your patience and professionalism over the last several months. There is nothing worse than trying to plan without answers. Now that we have a way forward, we can focus our energies and resources to overcome these challenges. I believe that when we look back next year at the challenges we faced during these uncertain times, we will appreciate the investment that was made into our future and continue the legacy of the 104th FW.