By Col. Peter Nezamis, Wing Commander, 126th Air Refueling WIng
/ Published February 04, 2012
Scott AFB, Ill. -- A happy New Year to you all! As I write this column, January gives way to February with temperatures hovering near 70 degrees; a sharp contrast from one year ago. Earlier this week, the Wing welcomed back our Security Forces Squadron after six months deployed outside-the-wire in Afghanistan. They were all looking forward to a bit of snow on the ground to celebrate a belated holiday season with their families but alas, temperatures in the 60's - who would have thought. What impressed me was their level of enthusiasm not just for the obvious, their families waiting at the foot of the airplane, but in the duties they accomplished, confidence in each other, and an unwavering desire to return again to continue where the mission left off. Well Done!
The 126th Security Forces Squadron performed magnificently over the past year achieving an overall OUTSTANDING in the wing's Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection contributing to the wing's overall EXCELLENT rating. Their duties and level of excellence continued supporting the war fighter in near-austere locations throughout Afghanistan. It should come as no surprise that the squadron was also recently awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, which is indicative of their standard of excellence. The AFOUA is a true honor and is not easy to achieve. Congratulations to Lt. Col. John Bryk and his entire SFS team; this award proves your commitment to the Total Force.
You'll see an article in this edition of 'Wing Tips' that recognizes all of our Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2012, including 906 ARS personnel. I want to congratulate all of our winners but specifically want to recognize those going on to compete at higher levels. Master Sgt. Kendrick Henry, 126th Security Forces Squadron, and Tech. Sgt. Jacob Curtis, also of the 126th Security Forces Squadron, were selected as the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer and Non-Commissioned Officer, respectively, for both the 126 ARW and the State of Illinois (Air). Both will now compete at the national OAY level. And Master Sgt. Shawn Wright, 906th Air Refueling Squadron, was selected as the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer for both the 906 ARS and the 375th Operations Group. He will now compete at the 375th Air Mobility Wing level. Please join me in congratulating them and wishing them luck in the remaining competition.
Also, we would like to remember the 30th anniversary of a tragedy in the Wing's history. On March 19, 1982, a KC-135 assigned to the 126th Air Refueling Wing exploded while returning from a local training mission. We mourned the death of 27, including four KC-135 crew members assigned to the 126 ARW and 23 members of the 928th Tactical Airlift Group, Air Force Reserves. As the 30th anniversary approaches, remember these citizen-Airmen who did not die in vain but gave their lives in the service and protection of others.
As 2011 drew to a close, so did the nation's and Wing's two decades of service and sacrifice in the skies and on the ground in Iraq. From Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Operation Northern Watch, OIF, and OEF, the list goes on. Hundreds of Wing members served, sacrificed, and endured months away from their families to ultimately secure freedom for those that pursued it for longer than we could imagine. Their nation's struggle is not nearly over, but we depart the field and skies to face new challenges.
The unfortunate nature of our business is that we're never truly finished; one ending simply leads us to a new beginning. As we leave Iraq, we face familiar challenges across the globe but will also face some new beginnings. The coming months and years ahead will be challenging as our nation tries to balance its budget while still defending its borders. Our goal is targeted efficiencies but the reality of those goals will be significant restructuring and complexities associated with budgetary constraints. Impact will be felt across the Department of Defense and change is certainly on the horizon. I encourage you all to remain optimistic during these times and stay focused on our mission.
While the future is uncertain and the new beginnings will be challenging, we'll have the opportunity to once again showcase our talents and our Wing. I encourage all of you to approach each and every day with a renewed sense of commitment. We take a lot for granted with our service to our country, but one day we'll wake up and we won't put on the uniform. One day our military service will be behind us and all that will remain is the legacy we've left. Let's commit to a legacy we can be proud of, a legacy that those behind us can carry forward into the next challenge.