Monday, May 17, 2010

Defining our Legacy

Extracted from the "Sandy Hog Gazette", official newspaper of the 111th Fighter Wing (Pennsylvania Air National Guard), Willow Grove ARS (May 2010 public online PDF issue, section Commander's Corner):

Lt. Col. Timothy "Wedge" O'Toole
111th Operations Support Flight Commander

Legacies are a unique phenomenon in that they emerge only after an organization ceases to exist. You can repair an organization's reputation since it's still in existence, but you can't repair a legacy once the entity is gone. Legacies are made
great by success over time but can be ruined in an instant. I know this first hand having been a member of a squadron that crashed an F/A-18 on the unit's final flight, ruining an amazing reputation and cementing a legacy. In addition to destroying a jet and seriously injuring a pilot, all of the squadron's successes, victories and achievements were instantly dashed by a single event caused by a lapse of judgment, focus and professionalism. I can't describe the frustration and disappointment of those of us who put so much effort into an organization to see it end in failure.

I recently flew my final flight in the A-10 and was struck by the attention to detail and pride displayed by our maintainers, crew chiefs, operations personnel and fellow flight crews. What struck me was that our Airmen are as sharp and focused today as they were on my first flight in the A-10 over six years ago. The jets are in great shape and are as reliable as ever. The fact that we're even able to conduct flight operations so late in the BRAC process is testament to this unit's professionalism, focus and tenacity. I have full confidence in our ability to maintain this high level of professionalism through the end of flight ops here at Willow Grove, but want to stress the importance of maintaining our focus on safety and doing things right. Now is not the time to cut corners. We must maintain our high standards and diligence to the task at hand until the last jet departs and our flying mission is complete.

When the 111th Fighter Wing ceases flying operations, it will have been an active flying unit from 1924 — 2010. I would like to point out that it's not the dates that will define our legacy but instead it's the dash between them. The dash not only represents the countless deployments, sorties, maintenance man hours, and sacrifices our Airmen have made for over 86 years, but also the conduct and professionalism maintained throughout this difficult changing of missions. If there was ever a unit with an excuse to lose focus and throw in the towel, it would be a BRAC'd unit, losing its aircraft with no definitive follow on mission. But that is not the 111th's nature and therefore will not it be our legacy as a Fighter Wing. Be proud of that fact!

Note: Associated to this Commander's Corner is the following picture:

From left to right: Lt. Col. Nic Szoke, Lt. Col Daryl Newhart, Lt. Col. Tim O'Toole, and Lt. Col. Mike Shenk, all pilots from the 103rd Fighter Squadron, pose for a photo opportunity next to the A-10 II Thunderbolt II during Colonels Newhart's
and O'Toole's final "fini" flight ceremony that took place on base April 10, 2010. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alvin Farrow)


Note: This very interesting picture was never released as JPG file on 111th's FW public website's photo section. Visible is a huge lot of patches or emblems on the aircraft's ladder door. Anybody who can/will provide me a close-up shot of this ladder door?

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