By Col. James J. Keefe, 104th FW Commander, 104th Fighter Wing
/ Published August 20, 2013
104th Fighter Wing, Westfield, Mass. -- Our ramp will look empty this Unit Training Assembly (UTA) weekend as we have relocated our flying missions to both Westover Air Reserve Base (ARB) and Otis Air National Guard Base (ANGB).
What turned into a successful last minute major movement of iron, equipment, and bodies (due to a lack of funding and slow decision making at higher levels); shows once again what this Wing can do when it comes time to pull together to get the difficult accomplished. I would be remiss if I did not recognize the outstanding support we received from our friends at the 439th Airlift Wing (Westover ARB), the 102nd Intelligence Wing (Otis ANGB), the 103rd Airlift Wing (Connecticut Air National Guard), and the Guardsmen at Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod. We could not have done this without their help. If only Congress could work this well together...
Thanks again for all your efforts in making this a safe and efficient move. I would like to recognize Lt. Col. Thom Kelly and Chief Master Sgt. Tony Swana, our re-location team leads, for spearheading and focusing our efforts and resources to make this happen.
Now that we are re-located, we can focus our attention on the next part of the process, which includes a runway and ramp rebuilding project. This project will start Monday, 5 August, and last until the beginning of December. As I have mentioned in previous articles, this project is essential to our long-term viability as a fighter unit. The increased ramp space will give us the needed room to properly execute our flying mission, as well as position us to accept more aircraft if needed. The new runway should last us well into the future, and will be capable of handling 5th generation fighters if needed. Our infrastructure is poised to meet the challenges of the future, including any possible Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) related recommendations. Barnes ANGB truly is a model fighter base for the ANG and Active Duty; a small, relatively inexpensive facility, which delivers a huge combat capability to our nation.
Shifting gears, I need to discuss a not so pleasant trend in the military-sexual assaults. This topic has negatively highlighted the military and is affecting our credibility and respect from those we defend, our civilian populace. So much so, that the Secretary of Defense has mandated a SARC (Sexual Assault Response Coordinator) "stand down" and training period for all members of the Department of Defense. This training will take place Sunday of the UTA in the main hangar for all, from 0830-1130.
There are two points that I want to stress with respect to this topic. First, the wing has a zero tolerance policy for any act of sexual assault against any member of the 104th FW. Second, we have an outstanding support group to help victims of sexual assault. We will marshal our forces and resources to take care of any Barnes member who becomes a victim of this heinous type of crime. We do not have a culture which promotes this act here at the 104th FW; we are a family and we take care of each other. However, I do worry about what happens away from base, outside of the UTA or annual training periods to our airmen. I ask you all to use the wingman concept in the civilian sector as well; on the college campus, the civilian workplace, or an evening on the town. Please look after each other!
Thank you all for your continued service and leadership.