Last Call: Commander's Final Comments

  • Published
  • By Col. Craig R. Baker
  • 180FW
I want to start the same way that I will end by saying that it has been my indescribable honor to be your Commander. In fact, I would not be the leader I am today without my experiences and relationships with you, the 180FW Airmen. Being the 180FW Commander has been both a privilege and an honor. A privilege because this command was a gift. A gift given to me by Airmen and in turn this gift brought many responsibilities, but none more important than ensuring mission success and wellbeing of the Airmen and their families. It has been an honor to command because the 180FW produces emotions and feelings that can ONLY come from leading those who are willing to sacrifice so much for defending the great cause of freedom.

I used the word EXCELLENCE on every slide beginning any Commander's Call because the 180FW is excellent at continuing to progress on the path of becoming the most lethal, innovative, and efficient fighter wing in the total force. The 180FW is a winning organization for many reasons. The following are some highlights: receiving the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, earning an "EFFECTIVE" grade in the Air Combat Command Unit Effectiveness Inspection and earning the highest grade of "Mission Ready" for an unprecedented third consecutive year during the North American Aerospace Defense Command Alert Forces Evaluation for the nation's number one homeland defense mission, protecting 60% of the U.S. population.

You have flown over 900 missions since the alert mission inception in 2008. While flying 2,258 missions totaling more than 3,770 flying hours, you also seamlessly executed the deployment of more than 530 Airmen and the movement of approximately 140 short tons of cargo and equipment to seven locations throughout the U.S. including Hawaii, Key West, Alaska, Tyndall, and Alpena, sometimes in shorter notice than needed to accomplish the mission. You deployed over 250 Airmen, 300 short tons of cargo, 12 F-16's
to Guam sustaining over 700 missions in support of the Pacific Air Forces Commander requirements. You pioneered the first Air National Guard no-notice force deployment to an overseas base expanding global power projection and meeting the commander of the Air Combat Command's vision. You built confidence in deploying 12 F-16's in support of Design Operational Capabilities statement taskings. The manning rate remained above 103 percent. The Chaplain Corps served in Antarctica becoming unique within the ANG. The Training Affiliation Agreement with the University of Toledo Medical Center, recognized as a benchmark training program at the National Guard level, was renewed for another five years. This training program streamlines medical skills verification and hands-on training of our military medical personnel locally while also providing extra manpower at the medical center during the wing's training weekends. Six times you ranked number one of 90 in the ANG for individual medical readiness, averaging 88 percent. The OHANG was the first state in the ANG to adopt the Public-Public, Public-Private Partnership Program, or P4. This Air Force Community Partnership Program is a process to leverage military installation and local government capabilities and resources to reduce operating and service costs, while expanding Air Force mission capabilities.

Lastly, we would certainly not be winning if it wasn't for the support of the community. This great fighter wing can only be as solid as the communities who support us. We must continue to partner with the community and be creative, leveraging each of our strengths as opportunities to battle the challenges ahead. These cooperative and innovative efforts will ensure we are postured to support and defend our nation staying well ahead of our enemies' capabilities and respond to crucial state emergencies and disasters. Finally, we have to be excellent because our joint service and coalition partners depend on our excellence. Whether you are in the FW Headquarters, Maintenance Group, Mission Support Group, Operations Group, or Medical Group, you are an incredibly critical member of this 180FW team...never forget that. Airmen determine how successful or unsuccessful the mission is. Remember that Airmen are the heart of the Air Force--with you, the mission can't fail; without you, the mission can't succeed.

Being excellent is also about teaching and inspiring, specifically what the 180FW Airmen have taught me, what you have inspired in me, what you have done to make me a better leader. The Airmen's Creed uses these three powerful words: Wingman, Leader, Warrior. These words not only explain what you have taught me and how you have inspired me, but how you have significantly improved and impacted my life in the last two and a half years.

Wingman is a term we use a lot, because it is one of the words that defines us as American Airmen. Have you ever thought about what it means or where it came from? The term came from pilots, specifically from WWII. In WWII, the 8th Air Force bombers, the B-17 and B-24, loss ratio/attrition (prior to being fighter escorted at the end of 1943) was above 50 percent, for executing day time bombing missions in Germany. When Maj. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle took command of the 8th AF in January 1944, he introduced two new innovative ideas to increase the survival rate of his bombers, flying more bombers (more dense formations) and escorting those bombers with fighters P-38's, P-47's, and P-51's. This put fighters on the bomber's wings for protection against enemy German fighters (the number one cause of bomber losses in combination with ground gun-fire). The escorting fighters became known as their "wingmen." After the introduction of these ideas, the loss ratio/attrition rate dropped to well less than 40 percent. Those wingmen saved lives, many fact; the term was forged in blood, sweat and tears. In the flying business, being a "good wingman" is everything, good wingmen do not lose sight of their flight leads and good wingmen always check the flight's "six o'clock." Since then, we have taken that mentality and applied it on duty, off duty, on the ground and in the air. Being a good wingman defines who we are; it is unique to us and it defines us as American Airmen. If you are good enough at it, if you are worthy enough, then fellow Airmen may call you a "good wingman." Being a good wingman is also about learning and mission accomplishment; being a good wingman continues to save lives today.

During my tenure, the firefighters saved three lives in the community and you have saved two Airmen's lives. Several thousands of students learned about making choices concerning alcohol and drug abuse in the 5 Minutes for Life program. More than 100 Stinger Airmen registered as bone marrow donors through the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program, joining in the fight against cancer. And the 180FW held a special ceremony dedicating F-16's to 16 surrounding communities by placing the names of cities, villages and townships on the side of the fighter jets. In 2015, the 180FW contributed $3,638 and 870 pounds of goods to the Toledo Seagate Foodbank, donated 114 units of blood to the American Red Cross, and more than 150 volunteer hours were contributed to the Cherry Street Mission to prepare over 2,000 meals for local families in need. Of those meals, 160 were Thanksgiving meals delivered, by you, to the homes of those unable to provide a holiday meal for their families.

Throughout my time at the 180FW, you all were both leaders and wingmen. Good wingmen trust their leaders once they have verified their credibility over time. When I first arrived at the 180FW, I was not only an outsider, but an active duty outsider. It was asking a considerable amount of you to not only trust me as your new leader, but to have faith in me and the direction we were going to go. You did it all, in fact, you taught me the values and characteristics of being a good wingman through your ability to defend the homeland, your deployments, your ability to be mission ready all the time, your immediate response to domestic issues, your unwavering commitment to the community and your capability to save our very own Airmen and community lives. You inspired me to have the courage to take risk when making decisions in a resource-constrained environment, when there were more questions than answers. And, you performed flawlessly in being empowered, gaining my 100 percent trust in your impressive talents to be exceptional leaders and good wingmen.

The most powerful lesson you have taught me, the one that matters most in our business, is leadership. Leadership is what drives our Profession of Arms business of the PhD level application of absolute controlled violence through the air domain or responding to those state disasters and contingencies. In Today's complex operating environment, the most prevalent constant is change. Successfully leading the labyrinth of enterprise-level change demands equal mastery of art and science. Today, too many leaders focus on the science and avoid the art, remaining cemented in facts and analysis that too often fail to compel real change. Your art is understanding that if you want people to change, you have to make them feel something, versus just thinking something. You have taught me to connect with you and your families on an emotional level, making the facts and analysis real, making them personal, harnessing the power of our affect as well as our intellect. This is how lasting change is forged.

Leadership is hard, but you make it look easy. Leaders fail, but you get up and become that much stronger. And, leaders are humble, a trait you demonstrate every day. You have showed me that it's not just about leadership but about effective leadership and that effective leadership does not necessarily imply good leadership but that good character is absolute for effective leadership. Effective leadership means inspiring those to do more and become more, it means empowerment, making decisions without all the information, paying attention to the details and being credible and trustworthy. And you have proved that bold leadership is another way to counter our uncertain future.

Today's challenges and fiscal constraints force us to be bold, and you are bold. You have taught me to do the same things in new and different ways. We are more cost-effective because of your everyday pride, dedication and perseverance. We think differently about potential solutions than any other wing because of your innovation and we have unlocked ourselves from the things we're used to because of your creativity. Lt. Col. Addison Baker's continual drive to lead his formation of bombers to the target in 1943 at the expense of his life was bold. That's our legacy, that's our heritage. You are that bold leader today and you are shaping the 180FW legacy to hand to our future. You have taught me to become a better leader and at any time, especially during times of adversity or crisis, you can count on one thing: that I will follow you because of your credibility and trust.

While I can never do enough to thank you and your loved ones for securing our freedom, I thought that I would honor you in two ways. First, to remind you what it means to be a part of the Profession of Arms; and second, to thank you for teaching me the ANG culture, a culture that continues to help our military preserve its warrior ethos while remaining connected to those in whose name we fight. Our profession is different than any other profession. Our profession can be ugly sometimes, but somebody has to be good at are that somebody. Every day we have to remind ourselves that we are part of the Profession of Arms, and that our job is to fight and win the nation's wars and respond to state emergencies and disasters, that is our responsibility and that is what we must value.

The Profession of Arms is a personal commitment and loyalty to standards and expectations framed within an environment of shared trust and guided by core values like integrity, service before self and excellence. Being part of the Profession of Arms is the heart of our warrior ethos, lived both on and off duty. The warrior ethos is a covenant between the members of the Profession of Arms. It's an ethos that stands for everything that we serve for as a military, it's a brotherhood and a sisterhood. But the warrior ethos also depends on the military's connection to society. It's the warrior ethos that permits servicemen and women to see themselves as part of a community that sustains itself through sacred trust and a covenant that binds us to one another and to the society served. The warrior ethos is important because it's what makes the military effective and successful.

The military relies on Americans being connected to its military. Separation from society would be significant because military warriors depend on respect for what they do to maintain their self-respect. Americans must understand what is at stake in the wars the military is engaged. The warrior ethos is about the warrior's commitment to act courageously, endure hardships, take risks and make sacrifices and most notably make the ultimate sacrifice to preserve freedom for this great nation. Fortunately, the ANG Citizen Airman culture, a culture that I now understand because of you, preserves our warrior ethos by serving as the real connection between America and its a military, a connection that has existed since 1636 in the early days of the Massachusetts Militia. We must preserve that ANG culture, that of the Citizen Airmen, and not only our enduring relationship with the community but the critical role that each of us play in keeping our military connected to those in whose name we fight. If society is unsympathetic to the warrior ethos, it will become increasingly difficult to maintain the fundamental requirements of military effectiveness.

Let me end by thanking you and your families for your service and your sacrifice. Thanks for your outstanding pride and dedication, for everything you do and thanks for coming to work every day to learn something new and to make something better. You are certainly a role model for me to live by. You are so incredibly important and absolutely critical to us performing the mission and moving forward in our vision and our strategy. You always perform extraordinarily and credibly; you are committed to service greater than yourself; you consistently outperform any standard; you have superior attention to detail; you are courageous; you are really good at what you do and you always make a difference. You make your mark every day and you represent the strength of our are American Airmen and I am always so proud of you.

It has been my indescribable honor to be your Commander and to serve with you; I can only hope that my leadership actions inspired and motivated you to learn, to dream, to teach, to build, to understand, to do more and become more...because I know that you have significantly improved and impacted my life for many years to come. Best of luck in each of your future endeavors, each of you will always hold a special place in my heart.

Stinger's because without them, you lose!
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