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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 -- I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their hard work in preparation for our upcoming UCI and LCAP, all the while taking care of our daily commitments. I know everyone is burning the midnight oil, and I appreciate your diligence, commitment to the unit, and to one another. During these times there is a lot of cross flow of information between units, lots of meetings, requirements, and simply a lot of new "stuff".

Please take notes as we go. If there are regulations that impede us while doing the mission, then we will strive to change it. I have heard Lt. Gen. Wyatt say on more than one occasion, if it does not make sense, we as an ANG will do what we can to fix it. I heard some examples this past Wednesday from a shop chief that definitely sounded extremely cumbersome. The UCI and LCAP are all about compliance, so for the time being, let's make sure we are in compliance. When the UCI and LCAP are over, we will compile our "better way to do things" and engage with the appropriate people at NGB. If you have suggestions, I request you forward the problem, and the recommended fix, up the chain. With the scarce resources of today, we need to make sure we are working smarter and not harder.

On a positive note, I had a talk three weeks ago with Greg Davis, our Boeing F-15 Technical Representative. His words to me were that when he left this base in a month or so, he will leave knowing there is not a more proactive Maintenance Group anywhere in the USAF, and Greg has been around quite a bit. He specifically talked about how our folks have dug into the TO's and asked questions that have not been asked in years. His words also spoke to the fact that while it may be a little slow now with respect to flying, in the long run he felt we would have the best F-15 fleet in the USAF and ANG. Chief Wilson also mentioned to me that Greg has "earned his money". I want to thank Greg for all he has done for the 104th Barnestormers for the past few years, you have been a good friend and you are welcome back anytime. While Greg was speaking specifically about Maintenance, I know every group is being extremely proactive. The lack of a budget and the Continuing Resolution has also made travel extremely cumbersome, I am hopeful Congress will pass a budget before the year ends.

Speaking of travel, I know we have folks engaged at every level to make things better here on base and for the 104th Fighter Wing. I appreciate your efforts abroad and for fighting the battles on behalf of the 104th, and I want to update everyone as to some take-aways from some of these trips. We were successful in obtaining 62.5 million dollars for 8 new Active Electronic Scanned Array Radars for our fleet, which will keep the F-15 and the 104th relevant for years to come, and we are advocating for more AESA funding as well. At the 1st AF Conference we got some positive news reconfirming Barnes as a strategic location for ASA. We were able to discuss budgets as it related to snow removal and fight the battle to ensure we remain resourced properly. Our CE (including our state employees), with limited resources, did an amazing job this winter at keeping our base operational, despite the vast amount of snow and ice. Our State Employees are a vital part of our team, and they have just completed a difficult transition to their new state payroll system. I want to thank all of you for your patience and commitment to this unit.

At a recent 9th AF conference, Operational Tempo and Inspection tempo was a hot topic. We were able to weigh in with an ANG perspective as most of 9th AF is active duty. One take away from that conference was the 9th AF Commander is extremely interested in placing an active association here at Barnes. We will see where that goes, but an additive active association would be a big win for us here (especially relative to our future). One member of our leadership team was able to brief the deputy director of NGB on the maintenance manning issues relative to potential flying hour cuts (in addition to many other Air Dominance issues). Coming out of winter, a new runway resurfacing has risen to a higher priority, and we have folks engaged there. We have folks on IG teams, SME's, MXG/OG Council Chairs, you name it, folks are engaged on behalf of the 104th and I thank you for that.

Next week we will deploy to WSEP to evaluate the entire fighter weapon system, from airman to machine to armament. WSEP will evaluate weapon performance from the time it leaves the munitions storage area, through loading, shooting, fly-out, and timeout. Also evaluated will be the performance of aircraft hardware/software and finally the aircrew. This will be a good test for us with our Long Term F-15 fleet, prior to deploying for any potential combat ops.

April is National Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness month, and this topic, just as suicide awareness, has received a great deal of public attention. We here at Barnes have a program in place and people ready to support any issues that may arise. This issue, just as suicide prevention, takes teamwork and a wingman approach to decrease the negative effects on our unit.

Last week a few of us had to attend a mandatory briefing down at Bradley Air National Guard Base in the morning with Lt. Gen. Wyatt, the Director of the Air National Guard. The theme was return to core values. While 99.5% of the ANG force is doing the right thing, there are some folks who are not. Once that culture sets in a unit, it is hard to stop. Certainly, I do not think we have that problem here in the 104th Fighter Wing, but please be sure you are doing your part and doing the right thing. Examples during the briefing and breakouts were BAH Fraud, fraudulent TDY pay, airmen shipping contraband from the AOR, excessive incentive awards, improper logging of comp time, just to name a few. There was an example of one unit in which 25% of the unit had committed travel fraud - which speaks to the culture of the unit. Our ANG leadership now has to spend a lot of their time simply defending the ANG vice fighting for resources and future missions. One last message was, just because you can do something, does not mean you should do something, something that might create a negative perception for your unit and the ANG.

What is on the horizon? It looks as if funding will be available for a deployment to Alaska this summer for a portion of the aviation package. Our Expeditionary Combat Support deployments will continue as we have many people engaged abroad right now. The 9th AF Vice Commander said our spring aviation package Air Expeditionary Force deployment is in the planning stages and we should anticipate an opportunity to deploy. We have the Environmental, Occupational, Safety and Health Assessment coming up in September, followed quickly by an Alert Force Evaluation from NORAD IG, and a 9th AF Standardization and Evaluation visit. The Phase 1 Operational Readiness Inspection is projected for approximately Sept. 2013.

Last, but not least - congrats are in order for our nine graduates from NCOA Class 11-3; Sgt's Brown, Cekovsky, and Christofori from the Security Force Squadron, Sgt's Leonard, MacDonald, Pavelchak and Weeks from Maintenance and Sgt's Crane and Savard from the Civil Engineer Squadron. It sounds like the 104th was running the place as we had four flight leaders, two distinguished graduates (TSgt. Ron Brown and TSgt. Tom MacDonald) a finalists for the Paul H. Lankford Excellence Award (TSgt. Ron Brown).
Keep up the great work, be a good wingman up, down, and across your chain of command, and thanks to all of you for being great Americans. I am proud to serve with you.