Commander’s Column

  • Published
  • By Col. James Keefe, 104th Fighter Wing Commander
  • 104th Fighter Wing
"Happy fiscal New Year!"

Fiscal year 2014 comes to a close and we start another fiscal cycle here at the 104th. The good news is that we are under a Continuing Resolution and have money to operate until mid-December. The bad news is we are not really sure where the DoD and ANG budgets will fall. There are several uncertainties with the President's FY 2015 Budget Request (PB 15) that may impact us either positively or negatively.  The most important being the loss of three F-15s from our fleet and the associated manpower that goes with it (possible loss of 74 military positions and 22 full-time authorizations). The good news is that the USAF and the ANG leadership knows that an alert F-15C unit cannot perform all its missions with only 15 aircraft assigned (PAA). Through engagement at the national level, along with our leadership at JFHQ and NGAUS, we have carried the message all the way to Gen Welsh...and he is in agreement with us on keeping the iron on the ramp. However, just because the Chief of Staff of the USAF is in agreement does not make it a "done" deal. It all comes down to money and how much risk our elected officials are willing to take, or not take, with respect to our nation's defense. With an ever decreasing military budget, these decisions are not easy ones to make, and something must give. I will keep sounding the alarm, along with our other leaders at the state and national level, that ANG F-15C ACA units need to maintain an 18 PAA force structure to be effective in defending the nation. I can tell you that we are hearing winning communications on keeping our jets, so let's keep our fingers crossed and keep engaging where we can.

This fiscal year also brings with it the first of our AFIS inspection visits from the ACC-IG.  The IG will be here over the November 4-day UTA to give our programs a ''first-look" visit.  The exact specifics on what they will be looking at will be communicated this weekend as well as during the upcoming month. Let's be the professionals we are and focus on what needs to be accomplished. This new inspection system has been discussed at length this past year and I believe we are on track to impress the team when they arrive. Our culture at the 104th mirrors exactly how this program is supposed to work, honest self-examination of our processes and procedures with a focus on compliance with the goal of making us a better fighting force. First impressions are important, so come to drill with your "A-game" in November...customs and courtesies, adherence to traffic regulations (cell phones and seat belts) make either a great first impression or can make us look like the ANG of "days gone by." We are the tip of the sword here at Barnes!

Lastly, many from the Operations Group and wing leadership attended the funeral services of Lt. Col. Moose Fontenot on Friday in Colorado at the United States Air Force Academy. I just wanted to mention how many letters of condolence we have received from our extended USAF, ANG and local community here in the Westfield area expressing their support and prayers... it is amazing to see the outpouring of support to Moose's family and the 104th FW. Kara and the girls are being well taken care of by our 104th family and I ask you to please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they get through this difficult time. This is what families do for each other, and they will always be part of the Barnes' family. That being said, I have received multiple inquires on how to help out Fontenot family. The Operations Group is heading up a memorial run to raise funds for Moose's daughters' education. The run will be held on Sunday, Nov. 9, at the Ashley Reservoir in Holyoke. You can sign up and run, sponsor a runner, or just make a donation. It is a great way to help the family and honor Moose at the same time. For more information see the 104th Facebook page or the following link:

Thanks for your continued dedication and professionalism!