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2013...the 92nd Air Refueling Wing did it: Higher, Stronger, Faster

Col. Brian Newberry has declared 2013 as “The Year of Innovation” at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., encouraging his Airmen to think outside the box and brain storm ideas for ways of improving business for the wing. Newberry is the 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

Col. Brian Newberry has declared 2013 as “The Year of Innovation” at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., encouraging his Airmen to think outside the box and brain storm ideas for ways of improving business for the wing. Newberry is the 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- We certainly are the world's most dominant Air Force, driven by excellent Airmen and powered by superior innovation. I have always maintained that innovation is our Air Force's lifeblood.

Last December, I asked the 92nd Air Refueling Wing to fly higher, stronger and faster in 2013. Likewise, our 18th Air Force commander charged us to be bold. He incited us to find unique solutions to problems before they become problems.

This charge occurred well before sequester befell us, and served as our calling to continue to be first class in mission execution even as fiscal restrictions mounted. Please know this--as I look back on the year, I cannot be more proud of your determination to adapt and overcome.

We are Airmen, and when we see a mountain, we do not seek to summit it, we fly over it. Each Group met its challenges head on. Each Group flew over its mountains.

The 92nd Mission Support Group, for example, epitomized teamwork, boldness and innovation when it determined a way to fix our dilapidated Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory building without using military construction dollars. Realizing that the tight budget indicated it may be over five years before we can build a new building, the civil engineering squadron worked with headquarters and many other base entities to acquire limited renovation dollars to be used to update another building on base where we could move the precision measuring equipment laboratory. Next year, the project will commence and is a huge win for the entire region as we help calibrate instruments across several states. In short, when faced with a building with a leaky roof, the 92nd MSG found another way and innovated a solution that alleviated the need for millions of dollars in military construction funds.

The 92nd Operations Group moved out in similar formation. Seeing the need to train more effectively with fewer flying hours available, the 92nd OG organized concentrated training days to effectively train its crew force at one time at regular intervals to maximize training while minimizing the workload of instructors. This innovative approach allows the group to accomplish 10% of its training a month to stay ahead of the training curve.

The 92nd Medical Group faced challenges beyond sequester, including doctor manning challenges in the summer and a massive change with the Tricare contractor in the spring. Despite these daunting mountains, the group rallied together and relied on its model of shared governance to adapt and overcome. It implemented the Patient-Centered Medical Home model of care months ahead of schedule in our Family Health and Pediatrics Clinics. Likewise, the group pulled together Tricare executives in coordination with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers office to help defuse flaring referral issues. Other innovative programs, such as point-of-service immunizations, direct access physical therapy and nurse-run clinics, visibly bolstered our Wing's health and helped mitigate major manning challenges in the summer.

As caretakers of the venerable KC-135 Stratotanker, the 92nd Maintenance Group is, by its very nature is, required to think outside the box to keep our aging tankers soaring. Streamlining phase operations, developing modifications to our Multi Point Refueling System and revising generation procedures are but a few of many tactical examples of maintainers pulling the chocks to accelerate tanker sortie generation. When showing our innovation to our 18th Air Force commander last March, when asked if they had more to expound upon, a maintainer replied: "I am doer, not a talker." Frankly, that summarizes our 2013 in one sentiment. Yes, we voiced our frustration with the many hurdles of 2013, but in the end, we as a team went out and became doers.

Last year, I reminded the Wing of a quote from Steve Jobs: "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." Without a doubt, in 2013, we were leaders. I thank you for it. Lt. Gen. Darren McDew thanks you for it, and most certainly, your nation thanks you for it. It was arguably one of the most difficult years in our storied history since 1994. We did answer the call of others so they may prevail. We lived up to our heritage beginnings with the 92nd Heavy Bombardment Group, whose motto was "Higher, Stronger, Faster. " We owned the high ground and flew higher, stronger and faster when challenged.

As we move into 2014, I charge Team Fairchild to remain bold and innovative. While I will not call out 2014 as another year of innovation, I will charge the Wing to remain Fairchild focused, and our focus has always been innovation. We intuitively know what Denis Waitley exclaimed: "Imagination plus innovation equals realization." We certainly must continue to realize perfection in our Fueling Freedom mission.

Soar in 2014 92nd--stay focused, and continue to Go Higher, Stronger, Faster...Aim High, Airmen...