Farewell Vandenberg: Wing CC's parting words

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Let me start by thanking each of you for what you've done for the 30th Space Wing, Vandenberg AFB, and our Air Force. Being your commander has been an honor and privilege. When I left Vandenberg in June '05 as the Ops Group commander, I said then that I' d had the best job in the Air Force. What I didn't know was how much being your wing commander would mean to me. While the family and I are looking forward to the challenges to come at Maxwell and the chance to be part of the team that will be shaping the future senior leadership of the Air Force, it's a reluctant departure. Given the chance, I would stay and lead the best space wing in the country for as long as the Air Force would let me. The 30th Space Wing and Team V have no equal anywhere in the Air Force - I've been truly blessed with this opportunity.

I said when I arrived that I felt Vandenberg was the most important base in Air Force Space Command. There is no other installation in the Department of Defense that has as its mission launch and range operations, and plays host to missile defense test and operations, ICBM test, NRO processing and launch ops, joint space operations command and control for all DoD space assets, as well as the nation's space schoolhouse. On top of that, we are the Command's most deployed base, as well as its largest, making installation ops the foundation for everything we do. No other base in AFSPC or in the Air Force can make anything close to those claims, and because of what Vandenberg's Airmen accomplish every day, those missions ensure the success of our Nation in the Global War on Terror.

I want to leave you with some final thoughts. I've done my best to instill in each of you the thought behind our three vectors -- being a Strategic Airman, being a good Wingman and fostering a Culture of Excellence. I'd like each of you to think about the importance of these concepts.

Strategic Airmen realize the impact of what we do each day reaches far beyond our work center or post. They understand our contributions are essential to the mission of the base, the Air Force, and the Nation. Wingmen are people who work together as a team with a shared vision of a common goal for the betterment of their unit. A Culture of Excellence is a culture where the values of the Air Force are internalized and excellence must be viewed as a continuous journey, pursued for its own sake. These concepts are universal. They apply whether you are a maintainer or operator, whether you are active duty or a contractor. These are not my vectors, but our vectors. These are important to our success today and they'll be just as critical to our success as an Air Force tomorrow.

Also, never lose sight of our mission and vision. The 30th Space Wing Vision is "Our Nation's Finest Airmen Delivering and Advancing Space Power for America." Over the past year, YOU have received four Department of Defense, 13 Air Force Level and more than 85 Air Force Space Command Level awards. There are many more outstanding achievements that go unrecognized. Every day you prove that you are our nation's finest Airmen. I have no doubt you will continue to do so in the future. In the short time I've been here, you've executed 12 flawless launches, supported more than 10,000 range operations, laid the groundwork for key new capabilities such as the X-37 Space Plane and Hypersonic Test Vehicle, deployed more than 560 Airmen, ensured the stand up of the new Joint Space Operations Center, and started construction of the new Onizuka Satellite Control Facility. We have definitely delivered and advanced space power for our nation.

The 30th Space Wing Mission is "To Defend the United States through Exceptional Launch, Range, Expeditionary, and Installation Operations." Every element of our mission statement is equally important, and we can't afford less than flawless execution of any part of the mission. There are no "do-overs" after an unsuccessful launch; a lost rocket or failed satellite takes years and millions of dollars to replace. The range support we provide can be the "make or break" for each launch or test mission - we have to be ready and we have to be right the first time, and every time. Our Airmen must be prepared to deploy - they should never leave our charge to go downrange without the best equipment and training we can provide - their lives may depend on it. Our installation is the foundation for everything that happens on this 99,000-plus acre base, whether we're talking about quality of life, or base infrastructure, or where we work and live. In every instance, we're talking about our installation; we can't do anything without it and those that keep it operating. These missions are vital to our success. Having said that, I challenge you to apply our vectors and make everything you do count - be intentional, make a difference, and advance every element of our mission - it's the most important thing you can do to make sure our Air Force remains Above All.

These are challenging times; we'll all be asked to make hard decisions, so we need to ask tough questions. We need to look at everything we do with a critical eye and ask questions about the nature of how we do business today. Is what we do today mission essential? Can we do it better? If it's not mission essential, can we eliminate it? As a strategic airman, you should constantly be asking these types of questions - it's at the heart of how we work together as a team of wingmen and encourage a culture of excellence, with the end result of advancing space power for our nation.

Finally, when I had my first commander's call here, I told you that the Air Force core values should frame our actions and decisions, and that accountability is key. That message was never more relevant than it is today. Both the Secretary of Defense and our own four star, Gen Kehler, have reminded us that as leaders, we are all responsible, and as Airmen, we are all accountable. That means we need be experts at what we do, and give our best effort at all times. It means living the core values - we must do the right thing, even when no one is looking. Our fellow Airmen, and the American people who have entrusted us with the defense of this great Nation, deserve no less.

Liz and I thank you, both for executing demanding missions, long deployments and meeting the daily challenges we all face, as well as for serving each other, our Air Force, and our Nation. The men and women of the 30th Space Wing and Team V, as well as this beautiful setting we call Vandenberg Air Force Base, will always have a special place in our hearts.