FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
Every week I welcome back another group of Airmen as they return to Fairchild from locations around the world where they executed combat missions, facilitated partnership building and enabled training missions in support of our national objectives. Then, in the span of only a few hours, I turn around and bid farewell to another group of Airmen departing to conduct the very same missions.
Airmen depart Fairchild every single week, many of them to the Middle East. Sometimes it’s a single Airmen going to stand watch in a control tower in Africa or an Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen going to the Pacific Theater, or it’s a full complement of aircrew and maintainers headed to take the fight against ISIL.
To most people, their departure looks like any other plane taking off from Fairchild or an airliner leaving Spokane International Airport. Most of us don’t give a second look to that tanker climbing away as it travels enroute to destinations all over the globe.
We are an expeditionary force, which means is global operations are part of our daily life. Many Fairchild Airmen are designated as “enablers” who are always 24 hours from being ordered to go on a higher-headquarters tasked mission for as short as 1 week, or as long as 6 months. Even when they are not officially deployed, these Airmen support all of the other operational, exercise, training and alert missions from everywhere in the world.
Additionally, most of our teammates have deployed several times already, and they will likely deploy again before the end of the year. This is not an unusual event or an expectation viewed as extreme. These Airmen simply put on their uniforms, say goodbye to their families and friends, get the intelligence updates, plan for their mission and depart without fanfare - and no fanfare is expected. It’s our job. It’s what we do.
When I look across our base, I do not see mission support, maintenance or operations Airmen, I see Airmen who are critical to our mission. Although the boom operators are the final link in the chain to deliver gas to our receivers, all of our mission teammates here fuel the fight. Our maintainers repair, our tankers refuel, our defenders protect, our medics heal and our comptrollers pay, just to name a few.
The 92nd is an air refueling wing … it says it right on the sign. All Airmen here need to know and understand how we are all part of that mission set. As an air refueling wing, we are almost always a support function to a bigger mission. This means most of the time our service goes unnoticed … and that’s just fine.
I’m humbled by the day-to-day sacrifices and dedication to the mission made by every member of Team Fairchild. To me, it is a daily demonstration of the core value of service before self. This is reflected in every squadron and every Air Force Specialty Code.
Hopefully by now all Airmen here realize how much their dedication is appreciated … not just by supervisors and commanders, but by the local community and nation at large. Think about how often these words are heard: “Thank you for your service.” When someone says it to me, it strengthens my determination to continue to earn their appreciation. It also makes me remember we not only serve our nation, but the Airmen who are always serving to my left and right, as well as the countless Airmen out there putting in the extra effort to ensure the mission does not fail.
So here’s the part where I ask the Airmen of Team Fairchild to do something:
- Be Accountable! Your actions and your attitudes matter. Remember every other Airman is in this fight, too, even if they are not right by your side. They work long days to ensure your days prior to a deployment are as short as possible. If they look tired, be understanding and realize it’s probably because they have been putting in extra hours to support your mission requirements.
- Be Responsible! Realize what you are doing right now, and how well you are doing it, may very well determine whether or not our teammates return home. Know your job well and know how it integrates with the other members of Team Fairchild. This level of understanding is essential to ensure this wing’s mission is successful.
- Be a Teammate! No matter the specialty badge or the name tape, we all wear a common tape: U.S. Air Force. Support each other as if that Airman is your best friend and might have been ordered to deploy 5 minutes before they walked into your office. We are all on the same team, and we all need to be wingmen for each other.
This is the art of being an Airman who puts the “Global” in Global Strike, Global Vigilance and Global Reach. Whether the mission is at home or abroad, every Airman on this base enables the global fight and ensures “Ops never stops!”