18th AF highlights Fairchild’s future, role in worldwide mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan Lackey
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Airmen with the 92nd Air Refueling Wing know they need to be ready when their nation calls. In 2018 their phone rung quite a bit.

Last year the wing deployed more than 400 Airmen and provided so much fuel they could have aerially refueled more than 11 percent of the aircraft on Earth.

Maj. Gen. Sam Barrett, 18th Air Force commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Chris Simpson, command chief, spent May 20-23 at Fairchild immersing with the Airmen who run the world’s largest air refueling wing. They highlighted where 2019 and beyond will take Team Fairchild.

“Great power competition is upon us; we have no time to waste in becoming ready for that,” Barrett said. “Our Air Force Chief of Staff has stated the only time we have is now until the next conflict to prepare our Airmen for the fight. This is what we mean when discussing full-spectrum readiness.”

In September, Team Fairchild is scheduled to host more than 2,000 U.S. Department of Defense personnel and international partners to during Air Mobility Command’s premiere exercise, Mobility Guardian. The exercise will put participants to the test during realistic combat scenarios to train like they fight: together.

“I’m really proud that Mobility Guardian is coming to Fairchild’s great tanker wing,” Barrett said. “The exercise is a huge part of the air mobility mission set and a wonderful opportunity to showcase this base and its Spokane area partnerships to sister services and coalition allies. It will present a great teamwork opportunity as several thousand joint service members from all over the world gather here to interact and solve problems together.”

Simpson highlighted how the exercise will build teamwork between Airmen and the partner-nations involved.

“It's important to build relationships across domestic functional areas and international commands, but more important is Airmen developing a greater understanding of how all parts of this operation contribute to the fight and that everyone contributes to a global effort,” Simpson added.

As Mobility Guardian wraps up, the 92nd ARW will look forward to receiving 12 additional KC-135 Stratotankers and the stand-up of the historic 97th Air Refueling Squadron. The additions will make world’s largest tanker base even bigger and enable Team Fairchild to expand refueling operations from Washington State.

“This base will be a strategic hub for KC-135 refueling operations for decades to come,” Barrett said. “It’s extraordinary that we take these weapon systems, with our innovative Airmen, and employ them all around the world with near-perfect mission execution. This base will truly be the center of excellence for the KC-135.”

Simpson continued by highlighting an area he said underpins all mission sets and allows Airmen to function at their best – Warrior Culture.

“Warrior culture means being great at what we ask you to do,” Simpson said. “We want to provide Airmen the time and resources to focus on improving their ability to perform their assigned duties and be the best in the world at their jobs. A world-class working force of Airmen equates to decisive victory for the Air Force and this country.”

Warrior culture ties directly to full spectrum readiness, and on an individual level, begins with one person doing outstanding work, according to Simpson.

“The battlefield of tomorrow will not be like the one today, so we must evolve as a fighting force,” Simpson said. “Full-spectrum readiness is about being prepared for the future fight, one of increasing complexity and unknown dangers. Innovation has become key to that preparation, hence our desire to empower Airmen to come up with and develop great ideas.”

To highlight innovation, the base recently launched the Inland Spark thinker space for Airmen, a specialized space to conceptualize and work on unit improvements. The space encourages more than just technological innovations, and includes finding ways to balance demanding work and family life.

“It's clear there is a lot we're asking our Airmen to do,” Barrett said. “Our Air Force recognizes that when Airmen and their families can thrive, it improves the team’s ability to complete the mission, so it's a balancing act. It's nothing new and has always been a challenge, but that balance remains a focus for my family and the Air Force family.”

“In the last 10 years or so, we’ve come to appreciate work-life balance more,” Simpson said. “We’ve been working on not just getting and keeping our Airmen ready to fight, but also to move on one day and pursue a life beyond their Air Force duties. We want to take care of Airmen so when they leave the service, they and their families can be all the stronger from the Air Force experience.”

Barrett and Simpson left Team Fairchild with a powerful message: full-spectrum readiness means Airmen need to be ready for anything at any time. The mission could draw some of Fairchild’s Airmen to combat, while others may go to the Caribbean to respond to a hurricane – at the same time. Barrett and Simpson said ensuring Airmen are ready to respond while having a healthy work-life balance ensures the team can react to wherever the Mobility team is called.