JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Gen. Mark Kelly, Air Combat Command’s new commander, visited wing-level Airmen and Soldiers of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia recently.
Kelly, who assumed command this August, visited various JBLE units for the first time along with Chief Master Sgt. David Wade, ACC command chief.
Over the course of four half-day visits spread over a couple of weeks, the command team visited the 1st Fighter Wing, the 363rd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, the 480th ISRW, and the 633rd Air Base Wing.
“[The Airmen of the 480 ISRW] bring unbelievable insight that no one else on the planet can provide…critical to our combatant and component commanders,” said Kelly during his first stop at the 480 ISRW.
“What impressed me the most was how passionate they were about the job and the level of intellect and technical knowledge they have. Rarely do you find someone that impassioned and that smart that can articulate the specifics in a way that someone who’s not steeped in what they do can understand. They did a phenomenal job across the board,” Kelly stated.
Leadership also toured the 497th Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group’s Airmen Ministry Center where the needs for mental, physical and spiritual resiliency are addressed around the clock, based on mission needs and the schedules of ISRG Airmen.
Kelly then visited the 1 FW to receive a mission brief, toured the low observable structural maintenance hangars, and spoke with pilots from the 94th Fighter Squadron concerning the future of the fighter community.
During that visit, Gen. Kelly recognized five exceptional performers from the 1 FW and the Virginia Air National Guard's 192nd Wing for their contributions to continuing the total force mission during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“The biggest impression I got was that [the Airmen of the 1 FW are] given the latitude to innovate,” Kelly said. “And they’re listened to.”
An example of that innovation is that physical therapy teams are imbedded within the 94 FS to give aviators and maintainers better access to quality care, thus improving the warfighter’s lethality.
“Some of our best ideas come from these young Airmen. They're not tactical, trivial ideas. They are relevant and have strategic impacts of how we manage the low observable capability of this airframe, which is key to their dominance,” he said.
The leadership team then visited the 633 ABW.
Kelly spoke with Jay Dehard, 733d Logistics Readiness Squadron harbor master, at Fort Eustis’ Third Port, about the Army’s unique marine capabilities, then visited training areas, the rail, airfield and other transportation locations on post. He noted how unique the dynamic between bases is and applauded the initiative of all members from the 633d and 733d Mission Support Groups to work together.
“I think what they bring to the fight is unique; we don’t have a lot of joint bases that are led by the Air Force…so they come with a perspective of working with our Army partners and (being in the Tidewater area) our Navy and Coast Guard partners. You all come together and find a way to ‘yes,’” he said.
From there the leadership team visited the 633rd Civil Engineering Squadron to see how engineers are making JBLE the base of the future and then over to the Langley deployment cell to walk-through the deployment process from start to finish.
On the final stop with the 633 ABW, COMACC visited the 633d Medical Group to receive briefs on their mission status. Unit members described the intricacies of the intensive care unit, the significance of the labor and delivery department to service members and their families, as well as the changes to pharmacy procedures and JBLE’s response to COVID-19.
Closing out his visits, Kelly visited with the 363 ISRW and its subordinate groups through virtual and in-person events to see exactly how the team provides critical intelligence across the full spectrum of operations at the speed necessary to influence wartime decisions.
Throughout their visits, both Kelly and Wade stressed the importance of taking care of Airmen because it directly supports mission accomplishment. They charged officers and enlisted Airmen alike with this task, stating that the future success of ACC hinges on it.
“The most rewarding thing is interacting with young Airmen that are significantly more confident and capable than I was at their age. We bump into people throughout our lives that have an option of making your task harder, but it seems like every Airman I came across was trying to find an innovative way to make it better, make it happen, get to ‘yes,’ and get the job done,” Kelly said. “It emanates throughout all of these organizations.”
The efforts of JBLE’s total force Airmen, Soldiers civilians during COVID-19 operations is a perfect example of that mindset, he said.
“There wasn’t a handbook given out for how to handle COVID-19, of aggregating people, and being an Aerial Port of Embarkation to get Airmen downrange, but [you’ve] found a way to innovate through it and much of that comes from attitude.”