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Commander’s column

Col. Robert “L.A.” Brooks, Wing Commander, 104 Fighter Wing, Barnes ANGB

Col. Robert “L.A.” Brooks, Wing Commander, 104 Fighter Wing, Barnes ANGB

Barnes Air National Guard Base, 104 Fighter Wing - Westfield, Mass -- Barnestormers;

In 1940, Winston Churchill made his famous wartime speech in which he said "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few". He was referring to the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Pilots who were at the time fighting the Battle of Britain, the pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe with Britain expecting a German invasion. The pilots became known as 'The Few'. 'The Few' stopped the Germans from attempting an invasion of the British homeland.

Over the past year our tempo has been extremely high, yet we accomplished every single objective we set out to accomplish. Can we do better? Yes. Can we improve? Yes. Are there more challenges ahead? Yes. Will the operational tempo slow down? No. That is the world we live in today. The shift from the Strategic Reserve to an Operational Reserve combined with two wars, past DOD budget cuts, potential future DOD budget cuts, and Domestic Ops within the state and Nation, I do not expect our Operational Tempo to slow down. It is what it is. What can we do?

We can focus on ourselves - what we can control, improve upon ourselves as a unit, and make the most of every opportunity given to us. We have a slight break in the inspection tempo, and can now better focus on our AFSC and war fighting skills. We have proved over the past year we are among the most Respected Fighter Wings in the CAF when it comes to inspections. Now we have the unique opportunity to prove it again with our aviation package and our AEF. We are prepping for a Red Flag and a major AEF; we have the chance to prove we are the best again both at Red Flag and overseas. If you are going to do something, you might as well be the best at it. None of this can happen without good leadership and solid followership. There are plenty of folks stepping up to the plate, are you improving as an individual and helping the team? An indicator of good leadership is doing a great job with what you are responsible for and having the ability to demand that people do things the right way.

While we are out of inspection cycles, we are having a Jan Phase 2 ORE to help prepare for our Oct 2013 combined phase 1 and phase 2 ORI. We will be the first ANG Air Dominance unit to execute the new combined inspection. This will be a tough nut to crack, so we cannot afford to pay lip service to the Jan ORE. Ensure you are doing your part in this preparation phase for the ORE.

I believe one of our weak areas as a wing is mentoring our force. Building a solid team requires mentoring each person on that team, from top to bottom. I'd like everyone to use December to mentor those in your chain of command. This is also a great time to ask for feedback up the chain. Mentoring involves feedback - whether it is positive or negative or both. Mentoring also means showing the person a path that will help them achieve their individual goals. There is absolutely nothing wrong with ambition, the key is how you achieve your goals. Do you make the journey with class? It is the journey that is important, not the final destination. Commanders and supervisors should know their people's goals, and help them achieve those professional goals (within reason!). We can also use this time for wellness check on our fellow wingmen, as the suicide rate historically goes up during this time of year.

I want to thank everyone for their commitment to this unit and to one another. While we are not facing the same challenges of 1940 Great Britain, we are facing difficult challenges in the US military. The key is not to focus on the negative aspects of these challenges, but the positive aspects. With every negative there is a positive, and it is up to us to seize the day and the initiative. Your family's service to the 104th and our nation should not be underestimated, ensure you are fostering the required time with them and ensure they know they are an integral part of our team. I believe you all and your families are 'The Few' of our generation, and it is my honor to serve you as your commander. Have a Great Holiday and Christmas Season, and a Happy New Year.