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Commander’s Column

BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- "I was once a Barnestormer!" I know I'll repeat this phrase many times over the course of my retirement years, and each time I do, my face will be beaming with pride.

First of all, congratulations on the successful Unit Effectiveness Inspection (UEI)! The overall grade of EFFECTIVE definitely goes in the "win" column and it doesn't even begin to tell the story of how impressed the ACC/IG team was with the 104 Fighter Wing. 14 areas identified as strengths and only 10 significant deficiencies are roughly twice as good as the Combat Air Forces (CAF) average marks. The main focus however was on our internal Wing Commander Inspection Program (CCIP), which is currently being studied by ACC/IG as THE BENCHMARK for the CAF. The ACC/IG team actually took ideas, policies and documents created by our wing back to Langley for distribution to all other wings and possible inclusion into the next 90-201 re-write. The way this wing digested and implemented the CCIP and Air Force Inspection System (AFIS) was just the latest example of what is so great here. In a single word, it's CULTURE.

I've had an in-depth look at many wings in my 27 year career, and the 104th dramatically stands out from all others because of the culture here. It was noticeable on my first visit here in 2007, and I can't count the number of times I've heard guests and new-hires make unsolicited remarks about "how great things are here." It's not new, and apparently has been this way for the unit's entire history.  Talk to any of the folks that were here a decade ago and they'll describe the same thing back when we were the best A-10 wing in the world.

I recently heard MG Langley, the 104th Wing Commander in the 70s, talk about how this same culture existed here when we transitioned from Sabres to Huns. There truly is something special here and it's been here a long time.  It's bigger than us. Don't get me wrong, it IS the men and women of the 104th...not the mission, not the facilities, not the aircraft...the PEOPLE. What I mean to say is that it is bigger than us as individuals.  Our culture as a wing makes us better than the sum of our parts as individuals. This in turn attracts some incredibly gifted individuals who make us even better. As individuals, we are both beneficiaries and stewards of this culture.
Enjoy your time here, you only get one lap and whatever is next will have a difficult time measuring up to this experience. Care for this wing, protect and preserve our culture. As individuals we are just passing through, so value the team above yourself, give more than you take, and correct what doesn't belong. It's what Barnestormers do. 

Forgive me for preaching to the choir, I get a little carried away on this topic. What I'm really trying to say is "thanks." Thanks for taking your work here seriously and doing it well. Thanks for embracing changes in mission, aircraft, procedures, budgets, whatever...and not even breaking stride.  Thanks for caring for each other...the way this wing pulled together during the tragedies last year showed your true heart and still overwhelms me as I write this.  Thanks for the good times...in Key West, Vegas, Alaska, Tyndall, Jordan and here at home, working at the 104th is a blast and certainly never dull. Thanks for the friendship, that's what I'll miss most and why I plan to join the large group that keeps showing up to visit from time to time. Most of all, thanks for allowing me the privilege of serving with you in the most respected Fighter Wing in the CAF. 

"I was once a Barnestormer!"
Jethro