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Commentary | Jan. 18, 2012

Looking back, surging ahead: The commander’s perspective

By Col. Kory Auch 633rd Air Base Wing commander

There is nothing like the end of a year to cause one to pause, reflect back on what has occurred, and then look to the future. This same concept can be applied to a military unit as well. The 633rd Air Base Wing had quite a 2011, even though it was less than a year old.

Standing up in October of 2010, the 633rd ABW and Joint Base Langley-Eustis had many accomplishments in their first year. With a quick glance over the calendar, it is easy to pick out the major events. The Operational Readiness Inspection in the spring and its resounding success clearly came as a result of a rigorous preparation schedule. A very successful open house and air show shortly after the ORI can also be attributed to members of Team Langley being committed to doing it right. The realignment of major missions at Fort Eustis throughout 2011 is an accomplishment of monumental effort. The work to prepare for and recover from Hurricane Irene. The short notice visit of the President and the First Lady. The extremely successful completion of major compliance inspections by our higher headquarters. The Air Force Inspection Agency's certification that our hospital is one of the best. Again, these big ticket items are easy to pull off the calendar and say, 'Wow we did all that!'

These events give me great confidence as the wing commander knowing that despite the magnitude, our great team will always get it done. However, what impresses me even more is to think about the magnitude of the everyday mission that is going on despite the insertion of these major events. In my six months in command, I've learned of so many different missions that are done on JBLE. There are obvious ones with four-star headquarters on each base, F-22s flying overhead and watercraft sailing out of port. But the mission diversity goes on to include training all rotary wing aircraft mechanics, maintaining Army and Air Force communication systems for the eastern United States, 24/7 combat operations, critical supply distribution centers, rapid development and testing of aviation advancements, and the list goes on and on.

As I look back over 2011, there is no shortage of pride and awe in both the major events and the daily missions that were accomplished on JBLE -- great Airmen, Soldiers, civilians, contractors with a common pride in mission accomplishment.

The entry of 2012 comes with great excitement and anticipation of what we will accomplish together in the coming months. While many encounters are unknown at this time, there are a few focus areas that are easily identified.

Our military force will continue to be deployed throughout the globe. We always have hundreds of Soldiers and Airmen serving in various parts of the world--that will likely not change. So a priority remains to keep our forces ready to respond when the nation calls. Part of that focus for Langley in 2012 will be the re-emergence of Phase II exercises. It has been many months since the base has fully participated in these force-employment exercises. Starting in February we begin the crawl, walk, run process to redefine our ways, while also eventually incorporating the 'get out of town' aspect of deploying forces. Yes, the old Phase I and Phase II exercises are back.

Another focus area for the 633rd ABW in 2012 is to continue to advance the joint base. Again, this newly formed organization is still in its infant stages. A lot of hard work went into the formation of JBLE, and the full maturation will take time. Supporting these two bases is absolutely critical. As my earlier reflection described, there is no shortage of diverse missions, and our joint-basing effort must always keep attention on allowing those missions to succeed - our nation depends on them.

And finally, it doesn't take one long to understand 2012 will be a year of resource limitations. Every level of our nation, government, military and society understands the economic realities are a top concern. There will undoubtedly be tough decisions to be made in the coming months in terms of where our precious resources should be applied. These deliberations are occurring at all levels, from the corporate enterprise solutions to the local impacts. At times like these, every dollar matters so we must be great stewards. Again, the primary focus will be on those military missions our nation needs and expects us to be able to perform.

2011 was a busy and successful year, and I can guarantee a future reflection of 2012 will have the same sentiment. It is because of the great members of the 633rd ABW and all the units on JBLE that I can confidently say 2012 will also be a very successful year for mission accomplishment - that is our proud culture.