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Commander's Column

Col James J. Keefe official photo.

Col James J. Keefe official photo.

104th Fighter Wing, Westfield, Mass. -- A belated happy fiscal new year! I am glad we are back together as a Wing after the government shut down. I want to touch on our plans for the upcoming months to keep you informed and mentally prepared to meet the challenges that we will face in fiscal year 2014.

Our runway project is going well and is on schedule. The new surface should last us for at least the next 25 years. The estimated completion date is December 2. We have begun planning for the return of our F-15s from both Westover and Otis. If the completion date for the runway holds, we should see our alert jets back on the ramp during the first week of December, prior to the Unit Training Assembly (UTA). We have an aviation training deployment to Tyndall AFB, FL; with a departure date scheduled for December 6 and a return date of December 20. The jets that are not deploying to Tyndall will return from Westover over the December UTA.

Unfortunately the ramp project, the companion to the runway construction project, was a victim of timing. The shutdown and lack of budget, coupled with colder temperatures (not good for asphalt work), will put that part of the project on hold until next spring. We expect funding for the ramp project early in the calendar year. We may be operating home station flying from taxiway bravo to make this happen. Also, we hope to get funding for our main hangar project next spring prior to our scheduled June 2015 Combined Unit Inspection (CUI, former Operational Readiness Inspection, or ORI). This project's funding was cut due to last year's sequestration actions, which removed funding for the overall Air National Guard (ANG) budget. As disappointing as this is, we have benefited immensely these last two years from an aggressive team composed of our civil engineering, contracting, and finance sections; which has allowed us to add many new construction projects to the base.

Speaking of CUIs, once we get everyone and the jets back home, we will start to focus on Operational Readiness Exercises (ORE) and Staff Assisted Visits (SAVs) to ensure our success under the new Air Force Inspection System (AFIS). We are putting together a robust inspector general section to meet these new requirements. As with all inspections, the key is hard work and preparation. We have three combined phase I/II OREs planned for FY14, with several part task training weekends. Sprinkled in between these events will be planned training deployments to Hawaii and Malaysia, an awards banquet, a family day, and an Alert Forces Operational Assessment (AFOA).

November is the month we recognize our brothers and sisters in arms who have gone before us to defend this great nation. I want to thank in advance those who have volunteered to march or speak during upcoming Veteran's Day ceremonies. I believe there is no better way to honor our veterans than to continue their legacy of outstanding service and selfless dedication by focusing on what we do best here at the 104th Fighter Wing - providing the best air superiority and expeditionary support forces in the world!

Thanks for your continued dedication...

Cobra