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Commander’s Column

Col James J. Keefe official photo.

Col James J. Keefe official photo.

BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- Happy Holidays!

Another year has rushed by in what seems to be a blink of an eye! As we wind down 2014 and look to the future of 2015, we have much to be proud of and thankful for as a wing. The year 2014 was witness to several firsts for the wing. Here are some of the highlights...

While executing our wing's primary air superiority mission we deployed to the Pacific Command Area of Responsibility twice, with deployments to Sentry Aloha, Hawaii, in March; and to Cope Taufan in Malaysia in June. Both of these deployments were highly successful and are in keeping with the DoD's emphasis on the Pacific region. Our trip to Malaysia was the furthest we had ever deployed wing assigned jets in our history. The PACOM commander, General "Hawk" Carlisle, had nothing but great things to say about us as we seamlessly operated with F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard. We had over 300 104th FW personnel deployed to PACOM, CENTCOM, and the EUCOM theaters of operations this past year. And while we were performing those functions, we continued to defend the northeastern United States with our ACA mission. We operated out of Otis in August to support Operation Noble Eagle. Our Firefighters, Civil Engineering, Logistics, Emergency Management, and Security Forces personnel have filled critical agile combat support missions around the globe. On the state side we support the Boston Marathon and the Esplanade.

We had several of our wing member's volunteer for duty and extended tours to places like the ANG Readiness Center, ACC Headquarters, the Pentagon, and 1st AF.

We recently had one of our officers, Maj Andy "Bishop" Jacob, 131st FS, accepted to the prestigious USAF School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS) program at Maxwell Air Force Base, a first for the 104th Fighter Wing. We are making an impact not only within the state and the F- 15C community, but at the national level as well. We successful stood up our new Air Force Inspection System (AFIS) program and had a visit from the ACC/IG in November. Feedback from their team lead indicated that not only were we on track in terms of the required timelines indicated in the program action directive (PAD 13-01), but were ahead of many other units in terms of developing a mature AFIS program. Although we have more work to do in getting ready for our ACC/IG Capstone visit in June, my feeling is that we are on a good glide slope to be in compliance and impress the IG when they visit in mid-2015.

We successfully partnered with the local community through various engagements to include the Westfield Chamber of Commerce, the Westfield Boys and Girls club, the Pioneer Valley USO, the Spirit of Springfield, the city of Holyoke St. Patrick's Day Road Race and Parade, and the 104th Family Readiness Group. The 104th Medical Group provided Guard Care for local school children. We delivered multiple Veterans Day and Memorial Day Speeches, and conducted base tours. We hosted Governor Patrick and participated in the new runway dedication ceremony in January. We held successful family and MWR events to include the Children's Easter Egg Hunt, Oktoberfest, Wing Family Day, the Children's Halloween party, and multiple FRG dinners...partnering with places like Noble hospital and the USO. We had unfortunate news with the loss of two of our fellow airman, Lt. Col. "Moose" Fontenote and Tech Sgt. Pat Rud. The impact of the loss of our fellow airmen will be felt for many years, but the outpouring of support to their families and friends from the 104th FW and the local community has been nothing less than amazing...a moment that made me understand what it means was to be a "Barnestormer"...

I am sure 2015 will bring its share of planned and unexpected challenges. I am positive we will meet these as we have in the past, with professionalism, dedication and teamwork. I would like to remind everyone of the awards banquet that will be held January 10, 2015, at the Sheraton in Springfield. Please plan on attending to congratulate your fellow wingman who will be recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty in making this wing the outstanding unit it is. I would like to thank all of you for all you have done for our wing this past year. You have made me proud to be your commander!
Sincerely, Cobra