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Commander's Column

Col James J. Keefe official photo.

Col James J. Keefe official photo.

104th Fighter Wing, Westfield, Mass. -- 2014: Another Year of challenges

Welcome 2014! We are pleased that Congress has passed a budget, with much deliberation. The exact numbers and implications of this budget are yet to be released, but the comforting thing is that we can plan on something. The challenges faced by Congress to pass a budget, the debt ceiling battles, and continuing resolutions have left us in a reactive posture, leaving little chance to properly plan and execute an effective yearly training plan. This fiscal year will be more stable in terms of resources. My hope is that the days of furloughs and last minute Unit Training Assembly (UTA) cancellations will be a thing of the past.

Another change that will affect us is the shifting posture towards the Pacific Command (PACOM) area of responsibility. In keeping with Department of Defense (DoD) planning, we will have two aviation training deployments to the Pacific; one to Hickam Air Force Base (AFB) in support of Sentry Aloha in March, and the other to Malaysia in support of Cope Taufan during June. Both of these deployments will test our Wing's ability to deploy our aviation resources over an extended distance, to work with friendly air forces in large force employment exercises, and to build relationships with those we may fight alongside of in the future. Our aircrews will train with the F-22's from Hickam, honing important fighter integration skills.

I have mentioned the new Air Force Inspection System (AFIS) in previous columns and the changes to how we will inspect ourselves. We have two "self-generated" inspections (old Operational Readiness Exercise (ORE)), which will exercise our ability to perform our federal missions. These will be multi-day events. The first is scheduled over a 4-day UTA in April, the second will be during our Annual Training (AT) week in August, and a third will be over the November UTA. As previously briefed, please keep an open mind and embrace this new system. If implemented correctly, the AFIS program will make our Wing more efficient and combat ready by evaluating how we deploy and employ our forces, manage our resources, and take care of our people.

We also have several social events planned in 2014. These include the Annual Awards Banquet next month, a family day planned in August, Oktoberfest in September, a Wing "dining-in" during the October UTA, and our annual children's Easter, Halloween, and Christmas parties. Sprinkled in with this busy schedule will be our standard mix of Distinguished Visitor (DV) visits, domestic operations missions, President of the United States (POTUS) support, short notice Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) taskings, and the normal day-to-day operational challenges that we overcome on a regular basis. 2014 promises to be another busy year that will challenge us in new areas.

As we have over the last 67 years, we will meet the challenges in 2014 in our standard professional, outstanding, BarnesStormer fashion!

- Cobra