By Col. James J. Keefe, Commander (acting), 104th Fighter Wing
/ Published August 12, 2012
Barnes Air National Guard Base, 104th Fighter Wing - Westfield, Mass -- Change is in the air, or is it. When I left for Navy War College in Jun of 2011, we had just completed the Unit Compliance Inspection (UCI), and the wing was getting spun-up for a little down time before we had to prepare for the Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI). Before we knew it, the Wing was then asked to send members and aircraft down-range to the Central Command Area of Responsibility (AOR) and provide a theater security package. The opportunity for recovery quickly passed, and now, a full year after I left, and the Wing is well into ORI preparations for the ACC/IG planned inspection in October, 2013.
As I am beginning to settle back into wing activities, it appears to me that the pace has not slowed down, as we had hoped it would. Thankfully, many of our folks are back from the deployment (but we still have nearly 7 folks still downrange today, with another 8 preparing to leave within the next month). I am sure they will be able to represent the Wing as well as our last deployed team did.
Before I talk about deployments, let me thank those who did not go overseas. Often, we take for granted that the work does not stop while 2/3 of a unit is overseas, in fact, in many ways, it gets harder, because the folks left to take care of the mission at home, have the same work to do, but with less people to share the burden. Those who stayed here ensured our critical homeland defense mission did not fail. Col Tony Gwosch did a fine job keeping the wing moving forward, so to him, and all those who did not have the opportunity to deploy... thank you for what you did while the Wing was overseas.
As for the deployment, I want to stay away from clichés, but WOW. Our maintainers were able to top all Active Duty standards for fleet readiness, with ZERO maintenance cancelations. In addition, they produced some of the best Alert response times in the AOR; and with every opportunity, demonstrated the strength of the Guard and the relevance of this unit. More than 1,000 flight hours were accomplished, and our pilots played a critical role in the AOR. This weekend many of you will be at the Yellow Ribbon-Reintegration event. Please understand that the reintegration process is sometimes very stressful, but there are people here to help through the transition. If you need help, work with your Supervisors, First Sergeant, our Family Support network and Director of Physiological health.
Some may be wondering about the changes in the Wing leadership. Let me dispel some rumors and enlighten you on some changes. First, Col. Robert Brooks is back from Afghanistan, he will be back to work as Wing Commander in a few weeks after a little well-earned down time. When he returns, I will be heading out to get re-trained on the F-15, after being out of the cockpit for so long. Col. Tony Gwosch will be wrapping up his military career, and when I get back, he will be stepping down after 41 years of military service. Lt. Col. Bob Henry has been asked to assist in the Wing's ORI preparations as the new strategic planning officer, and Col. Peter Green will be coming back to the Wing as the Maintenance Group Commander. We, as a Wing, are doing everything we can to make sure we have the right people in the right positions for the upcoming inspection.
This weekend, take some time to celebrate the wing's accomplishments during Family Day. Ensure your family knows how critical they are to our success, and remember to be safe. We are about halfway through the 101 critical days of summer, and we have been doing a good job keeping each other safe ... don't stop. I'm proud of each and every one of you, keep up the great work!