Commander's Column

  • Published
  • By Col. Robert "L.A." Brooks, Wing Commander
  • 104FW
Letter to 104th Fighter Wing 

To the men and women of the 104th Fighter Wing, I want each of you to know I look forward leading and being a part of the 104th Barnestormers. Throughout my time in the Air Force and the Air National Guard, this is the highest honor I have ever been part of. My wife, Aprile, and our three children, Patrick, Nathan, and Laura Beth, are looking forward to our time here in Western Mass. We are fully aware that a large part of the foundation of our countries independence was born through the sacrifice, pluck, and grit of Massachusetts men and women. John Adams, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, the Sons of Liberty, the shot heard around the world, just to name a few, all happened here in Massachusetts. Robert Gould Shaw of Boston, a Union Colonel during the Civil War, epitomized how a leader should care for and lead his troops. We are excited to become a part of and share in the rich and honored history your forefathers have bought us. We would like to thank each and every one of you who have worked to make our relocation as painless as possible and make us feel a part of the Barnes family. Everyone has been so gracious, and we appreciate everything you have done. 

I appreciate and honor your service to country and the state of Massachusetts. My family and former unit owe a great deal of gratitude to Massachusetts and all of the states in the Union for their unparalleled support during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Your sacrifices to state and country, and those of your families, are no less important today than in 1776. The Declaration of Independence states: "...we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor". These words still hold true today; we are still fighting for our values, freedoms, and our way of life. Each day a member or former member of our unit drives through the gates of the 104th Fighter Wing, they should feel at home and carry with them the satisfaction of duty faithfully performed. The weight of our countries future is being carried on your shoulders, and the shoulders of your wingman, the man or woman standing and working next to you, and you all are living and serving at a crucial time in our nations history. Speaking of wingman, Lt Col Francis S. "Gabby" Gabreski said this: "The wingman is absolutely indispensable. I look after the wingman. The wingman looks after me. It's another set of eyes protecting you. That is the defensive part. Offensively, it gives you a lot more firepower. We work together. We fight together. The wingman knows what his responsibilities are, and knows what mine are. Wars are not won by individuals. They're won by teams". "Gabby" downed 28 axis aircraft in World War II and 6.5 MiGs over the skies of Korea. 

The wingman concept applies on the ground and in the air. The importance of this concept, and that of teamwork, cannot be overstated during our conversion and in accomplishing our vision and goals. I am conscious of how important small details are. I am keenly aware that sometime the smallest details overlooked can cause catastrophic impact...likewise; it is those small details, routine actions, and consistent efforts that need to be recognized regularly. Leaders and supervisors must recognize those members who step up to the challenges. The Barnestormers have led the way and set the standard in the A-10, now let us set the standard in the F-15. We will build and forge our unit character and credibility through teamwork, determination, and trust. Once trust is established, teamwork comes easy, knowing everyone will pull their weight and will lookout for one another. Our team is strong, and our goal remains unchanged from the direction of Brig Gen Rice, to be mission capable in 2010. 

I have spoken with Major General Akey, Brigadier General Rice, and the leadership of the 104th concerning vision and goals. Our vision is to continue the excellence you all set in the A-10, except now set the standard in the F-15. Our near term goals are: 1) Complete the conversion to the Eagle in a safe, effective, and efficient manner. 2) Stand up our Alert Force within the prescribed timeline to support our National Objectives within OPERATION Noble Eagle. 3) Continuation Training and Unit Preparedness to support the Global War on Terror and any other national or state missions assigned. 4) Prepare for inspections in a manner which will set us up for success and an OUTSTANDING. 5) Family Programs and Readiness; with the operational tempo of today's Air National Guard, we will continue to support all our personnel in their jobs, both on and off duty. 6) Community Relations; we will continue to support the local community with a continuous presence of the Air National Guard as a community partner. I expounded on these goals in a previous interview, and will not so here. They are worth repeating though, and will be further defined in the near future to ensure we are moving in one direction within the Fighter Wing and the state. 

I want to thank Major General Carter, Major General Akey, and Brigadier General Rice for placing their trust and confidence in me as Wing Commander. I fully realize, as I want our commanders to; that leading men and women is a right that must continue to be earned every day. I know we have great leadership here at all levels, and I look forward to serving the nation and the state of Massachusetts with you. General Carl "Tooey" Spaatz once said: "The first and absolute requirement of strategic air power in this war was control of the air in order to carry out sustained operations without prohibitive losses". In Desert Storm as a Lieutenant, I was part of a squadron which downed sixteen enemy aircraft in the early days of the war. As the war progressed, and the air war slowed, the excitement of my day over Iraq was watching the A-10's take care of business on the ground, unimpeded by enemy fighters. Our way ahead is clear; we are now flying an aircraft with a 104 to 0 combat record. Let us continue that tradition and uphold Barnestormer standard. 

Colonel Robert T. Brooks Jr.