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Ready to serve, ready to help; some shout outs to our standouts

  • Published
  • By Col. Lenny Richoux
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing commander
Last Friday, Michele (my wife) and I sat down with a reporter for an article in one of their upcoming issues, and they had all the usual questions. You know: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? What's it like to fly a military aircraft? What keeps you up late at night?

What keeps me up at night? I'll tell you what doesn't keep me up late at night: worrying about mission effectiveness. We are ready to conduct our nation's wars! We're ready because we work hard to hone the skills that make us ready just like we did last Wednesday during our latest generation exercise. Many of you spent a long 16-hour day running through numerous scenarios, and for that I thank you. In particular, Staff Sgt. Chad Raaymaker and 1st Lt. Andrew Lee from our intelligence shop were especially on top of their game as they set the world stage and prompted us into action. Also, the 6th LRS vehicle maintenance shop was Johnny on the spot on numerous occasions, like when one of the aircrew vans experienced a flat while scrambling to the flight line. Finally, hat's off to Mr. Dave Cresswell and his entire Exercise Evaluation Team for planning the exercise and squeezing it into a single day. Safe mission accomplishment is our number one priority, and I see you working hard every day to get us there.

So what keeps me up late at night? Thinking about that 19-year-old newlywed with a child, living off base while her husband is deployed for the first time. It's not the programs and services we offer to meet her needs here at MacDill that concern me; they're outstanding. It's whether we've done all we can to reach that spouse on a level that makes her feel comfortable coming to us for help no matter the problem. I encourage every commander, first sergeant, supervisor, colleague and neighbor to personally stay in touch with spouses of our deployed Airmen. I want you to look them in the eye, connect with them and show them just how much you care about them. I truly believe it takes a community to care for our Airmen and their families, and we live in one of the greatest Air Force communities on the planet.

Speaking of our great community, have you heard of Operation Helping Hand? This is an incredible organization that supports our wounded warriors and their families. James Haley VA hospital hosts numerous wounded warriors and their average stay is about 45 days, and of course their families want to be with them. Operation Helping Hand provides for the families so they can stay with the wounded warriors. Last week I had the honor of giving that great organization a check for $4,200. We had many fine organizations that made that check possible such as the Chief's Group, the med group staff, and LRS. However, there were two Airmen who went above and beyond. Senior Airman Paola Bustamante and Staff Sgt. Christina Smith single-handedly raised nearly three quarters of the entire check. They sold T-shirts, facilitated a softball tournament, held a pie-in-the-face raffle, and numerous bake sales. Paola and Christina, you are fine Americans and I'm proud to serve with you.

We have some truly amazing Airmen on this base, like Senior Airman Joseph Fears. Airman Fears was selected as a transfer student to Harvard University for the academic year 2011-2012. Nearly 1,500 candidates applied to this prestigious university for only 12 places in the sophomore and junior classes. The Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid agreed that Airman Fears stood out among them, and he will be studying at Harvard beginning this fall.

Senior Airman Seth Taylor reached a similar major milestone in his Air Force career. He was accepted into the Air Force Academy Prep School. He enlisted as Cyber Transport Technician in December 2009 with his first duty station at Osan Air Base, Korea. After arriving to MacDill AFB, he continued to work toward his long-term goal of an Air Force commission. Mark my words, you'll see Air Force 2nd Lt. Seth Taylor in about five years. His drive and impressive work ethic guarantee it. Airmen Taylor and Fears, I salute you for your dedication and hard work. Well done!

I am proud to serve with you in the finest Air Mobility Wing on the face of the planet!