Commander’s Column

  • Published
  • By Col. James Keefe, 104th Fighter Wing Commander
  • 104th Fighter Wing
Last month we held a Strategic Planning conference at the Southbridge Convention Center. Approximately 50 members from the wing, representing all groups, AFSCs, ranks and statuses, met to discuss the future of the 104th Fighter Wing. Our goal for this event was to determine what the wing should look like in the 5-10 years that lies ahead of us, and then to develop an actionable plan to get there. We would hold true to our core values while moving towards our vision of being the most respected fighter wing in the combat air forces, the first unit that would be called upon when F-15C air superiority or combat support force are needed to defend our nation.

An important and enlightening part of this conference were the briefings we received from members of the Air National Guard Air Staff (A-staff); to include personnel, programming, requirements, and facilities. We were also briefed by Brig. Gen. Gary Keefe, ATAG-Air, MA ANG, and Maj. Neal Byrne, from Lt. Gen. Clark's staff. A common theme from all the briefings was that to be successful in today's ANG, a unit must maintain its relevancy.

Relevancy can mean many things to different audiences. For the Governor of Massachusetts (our Commander in Chief under Title 32 state duty), relevancy is measured in our ability to support domestic operations. The NORTHCOM commander needs alert forces on the proper status to protect the homeland. For the USAFE commander, it's the ability to project air superiority forces to check the recent aggressiveness of Putin's Russian military forces. The same can be said of the PACOM commander in his desire to show China that we can deploy from great distances then employ with one of our Pacific Rim allies. The CENTCOM commander needs could be more support getting EOD, FSS, or SFS defenders to Afghanistan. Our mission sets cover all theaters of operations with a wide variety of skills. Within the last 30 days, we have 104th FW members in, returning from, or preparing to deploy to all of these AORs ...we are as relevant today as we have ever been. The challenge is to maintain that relevancy well into the future, and that is where our Strategic Planning process comes into play.

Looking at all the information we had available to us going into the planning conference, we came to an educated conclusion (which I won't expand upon in this short article) that within the next 10 years: we would still be flying the F-15Cs; we would continue to deploy to support the war effort; we would be sitting ACA alert here at Barnes; we would be a TFI unit with active duty personnel embedded into the wing; we would see an increase in DOMOPS/DSCA taskings; and lastly, that the DoD budget would continue to decline year over year.

We then broke the conference attendees into three groups: Missions, People and Partnerships, and Facilities. The task was to then identify strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities within each group that would affect the wing in the future. A wide range of questions were posed to the groups with the intent of helping us chart our path into the future. What facilities do we need to be effective in our missions? What new mission could the 104th FW absorb? Who are the power players that make decisions that affect us...and how can we affect the outcome of those decisions? How can we leverage local partners to increase our mission effectiveness and efficiencies? What developmental tools do our people need to not only be successful now, but into the future? These are some of the many questions asked and debated over the two-day event. Although we did not end the conference with an updated "completed" Strategic Plan, the group did an enormous amount of work in laying the foundations for a bright future.

I thought it was important to let you know that we are not sitting idle with respect to the future of this wing. In the near future we will publish the updated Wing Strategic Plan with specific actionable tasks to help us remain in the fight, and ensure our ability to do so into the future. Our base master plan, last updated in 2007, was also reviewed and will be modified to allow us to enhance our current missions while possibly opening the door for new missions here at the 104th. The conference was a huge success and will allow us to focus our energies, resources, and time, to ensure we will be as relevant in 10 years as we are today, all the while maintaining our tested warrior ethos. Expect more information on our strategic planning process in the near future...for as a famous dead guy once said, "Failing to plan planning to fail."