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Commander’s Column

Col James J. Keefe official photo.

Col James J. Keefe official photo.

104th Fighter Wing, Westfield, Mass. -- BarneStormers: In the weeks that followed our last drill, much has happened. We were inspected by the NORAD IG on our alert mission; our homeland response capabilities were put to work following the marathon bombing in Boston; 100 of our members were deployed to Nellis AFB to support the USAF Weapons School; and we learned that our Aerospace Control Alert (ACA) mission will relocate to Otis Air National Guard Base during our runway construction project this summer/fall.

Amidst the recent veil of uncertainty, I applaud the way you have performed and for remaining focused on the tasks at hand. We were rated "Mission Ready" (the highest rating allowed) by the NORAD IG with an impressive 23 strength areas. The results are the culmination of an impressive team effort from across the Wing! The inspection team noted that we were one of the top ACA units in their opinion. When Boston was transformed into a small war-zone, the entire base rallied to support the missions in the East. A few days later, we received a very short-notice request to deploy part of our aviation package to support the USAF Weapons School; without our help, they might not have been able to accomplish their training requirements--again, no one hesitated to help. It is this dedication to serve with excellence that sets us apart from many of our peers.

In order to celebrate that spirit, Saturday afternoon, following the F-100 rededication ceremony, the 104FW officers and I will host an enlisted appreciation event at the Pioneer Valley Club. Officers will serve the food as a way of saying thanks to the 90% enlisted force that is the "muscle" behind the sword this wing swings in defense of our nation. This may be one of the last times the unit will be together, as we begin to set the plan in motion to set-up flying operations at an alternate location during runway construction.

This month, as we remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for this great nation, take some time to think about the values which drive them to serve: selflessness, dedication, and honor. I will repeat this theme during my remarks at the F-100 rededication this weekend--the greatest way to honor those who have sacrificed so much, is to pick-up the flag and carry it forward!

This was re-enforced on Patriot's Day as we deployed members of our security forces team in support of security efforts in the wake of terror attacks during the Boston Marathon. Defending the homeland is one of the most honorable missions to have. Our vigilance, focus, and commitment are imperative to our success.

Change is inevitable, stress is inherent, and focus is imperative. As we move forward toward splitting off our flying operations to an alternate location, take the time to do the small things right. Be safe and communicate with your team--help is out there, so don't be afraid to ask for it. I appreciate all you have been doing for this unit, our state, and this great country...thanks!