JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. —
“First to the Fight!” You may have seen the slogan flashed on the sortie board outside the wing headquarters building, or you may have seen it at the bottom of an email. Our motto represents more than just our unit’s number or designation. It encapsulates our wing’s noble, century-old heritage, forged by the scores of maintainers and aviators who wore our unit colors before us. And it points to our role today sustaining their legacy of air power dominance.
Lest we forget, it was our heroic predecessors flying fabric-covered biplanes in France during World War I that recorded our country’s first-ever aerial victory. During World War II, our wing launched P-38 Lightnings from the North African coast on missions to decimate enemy troops and supplies across Southern Europe. Throughout the Cold War, units from the 1st Fighter Wing steadfastly defended our nation’s skies. And when the President ordered U.S. forces to the Middle East for DESERT SHIELD in 1990, it was the intrepid souls of the 71st Fighter Squadron who charged forward, leading the way in their F-15 Eagles.
That proud legacy of being “First to the Fight!” continues today. I saw it firsthand when last year, just three days after becoming your commander, we got the call to rapidly deploy our F-22 Raptors to the Middle East. The team rallied, mobilized its resources, and successfully delivered our nation’s most capable air-to-air fighter force to the region in a matter of days. Then, we were tested again in March this year. Over one weekend, we supported our brethren from the 192d Fighter Wing as they completed their required monthly training; we deployed our Spad team members overseas; and we provided aerial overwatch and protection for the President of the United States as he travelled hundreds of miles from Langley—three simultaneous missions, spanning the globe, all pristinely accomplished. I stood in awe of your skills, and I could not be prouder of your performance proving again that we are “First to the Fight!”
It has truly been a team effort. From our Low Observables troops that rebuilt the stealth characteristics of our entire fleet of F-22 Raptors, to our air traffic controllers, whose outstanding performance garnered U.S. Air Force-level recognition as the D. Ray Hardin Air Traffic Control Facility of the Year for two consecutive years, to our cadre of extremely talented pilots who established dominance over the skies of Syria and Iraq, I’m confident Eddie Rickenbacker, Frank Luke Jr., Thomas Maloney, and all our forebears would be proud.
Over the last few months, we’ve responded to our senior leaders’ calls and begun preparing for a new, high-end threat. As part of this effort, we’ve focused on maximizing our combat readiness while elevating the performance and experience of our maintainers and our pilots. Our Airmen, our equipment, and our aircraft must now all be ready to deploy and ready to employ on a moment’s notice. I know this obligation places a special burden on you and your loved ones, but being “First to the Fight!” during uncertain times requires nothing less.
Helping us chart our wing’s flightpath forward are two new members of our command team—Col. Steve Fino, our new Vice Commander, and Chief Master Sgt. “Jay” Harris, our new Command Chief. Together, we’re committed to supporting you and your families as our wing transitions from an AEF-model to a combat-ready force poised to spring forward.
You will play a critical role during this pivotal time. We’re daring you and your supervisors to think differently, challenge the status quo, and do things smarter. We’re asking you to push forward your innovative ideas that will help us eliminate readiness shortfalls. It’s an exciting time to be part of America’s First Wing here at Langley, and I’m proud of you and proud to serve with you.
I can’t predict when our wing will be summoned again, or where we’ll be going when we are, but I can predict that when that inevitable call comes, the men and women of the 1st Fighter Wing will once again uphold our wing’s century-old legacy of air power excellence.
We will be “First to the Fight!”