Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's message from the 188th Fighter Wing commander

Released on the 188th Fighter Wing's official Facebook page December 29, 2012

Colonel Mark W. "Casper" Anderson pictured as 188th Fighter Wing vice commander. He took command of the 188th FW during a change-of-command ceremony April 14, 2012. Online biography as of May 2011

New Year's message from the wing commander

188th members and families,

As we conclude 2012 and go forward to 2013, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for your outstanding service to the Wing, your community and the nation. We greatly appreciate everything you do.

The year 2012 was full of challenges but you excelled in every one of them. You represented us well with deployments throughout the world. In addition, your work at home station was first-rate and the unit is stronger for all that you have done.

The year 2013 will bring more challenges as well as opportunities; some we aren't even aware of yet. In May we will receive the largest compliance inspection in the history of the 188th. In addition, we may begin a significant conversion. In 2013 some will deploy into harm's way. Let's make sure they know how much we appreciate their service and do everything in our power to take care of them and their families.

NOTE: Concerning deployments, there is one bit of misinformation that I'd like to dispel: There are no plans for the aviation package to deploy again in 2013. In fact, we are currently not in the Air Expeditionary Forces rotation at all.

I know all of you are anxious to learn exactly what the future holds for the 188th. I wish I could tell you for certain; however the scope, details and timeline of these actions are yet to be finalized. Below is an update of what we know as of as of Dec. 28:

- With the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act (awaiting Presidential signature at this time), the Air Force is cleared to proceed with Air National Guard mission changes at their discretion. The last Air Force proposal included taking the A-10 mission from Fort Smith and replacing it with an MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) mission. Other moves are also possible involving other units in the Arkansas National Guard. These changes would have the greatest impacts on the 188th's Operations and Maintenance Groups.

- The good news is there are no plans to close the 188th, contrary to what you may have read in the press today. In fact, if the Air Force plan goes forward as proposed, it appears there may not be a significant long-term change in 188th's full-time or drill status Guardsmen manpower. If this action takes place we will push the manning details to our members as soon as it becomes available. However, it's important to understand, such a significant mission change would not happen quickly. In fact, before the conversion would be complete, there would be substantial retraining and construction involved.

- If the action happens, our conversion committee will work hand-in-hand with all the stakeholders including: Our members, our officer and enlisted leaders, the union, Human Resources Office, Air National Guard, Air Education and Training Command, the Inspector General, the community and our Congressional delegation. They will communicate early and often to ensure you have the most timely and accurate information available. Bottom line: Our goal will be to take care of our members and set the unit up for future success.

- Recently, Gen. Mark Welsh III, the Air Force Chief of Staff, said he intends to visit the 188th soon. He also said that any mission changes would not be official until after that time. This is good news. This will be a great opportunity for him to see first-hand what the 188th has to offer both now and in the future. We will let you know when we have details on his visit.

I understand the continued uncertainty may be difficult, but it appears as if the final decisions will be made very soon. I have been extremely impressed with the focus, patience, teamwork and resilience of all our Airmen during this process.

Unless or until you hear otherwise, here's what we should be doing in the weeks and months ahead:

First: Continue doing the mission we are assigned to the absolute best of our ability. Right now our job remains unchanged; this is what the taxpayer is paying us to do. We can't afford to get distracted.

Second: Continue to prepare for the inspection in May. If the conversion happens we will immediately coordinate with the IG and attempt to tailor the inspection accordingly. Until that happens, we must continue with the preparation. We can't let up. Don't be the one whose inattention brings down the grade for the entire organization.

Third: Continue to take care of yourself and each other. If the uncertainty or other life issues begin to take their toll, there are many resources to help. These include: Chaplains Office; Mr. Geoff Gibson, Wing director of Psychological Health; Airman and Family Readiness; your first sergeant; and your commander. Don't be afraid to use these resources and always be a good wingman to your coworker.

In closing, I am extremely proud of everything you did in 2012 and I'm very optimistic of what 2013 holds for the 188th. Never forget, we have an amazing unit. We have outstanding members that take care of each other and do the mission like no other. We have leaders that genuinely care about their people. We have facilities and training resources that are second to none. And we have the absolute best community and congressional support in the world.

I am honored and humbled to be your commander. Happy New Year to you and your family. May God bless you and the 188th in the upcoming year.

Col. Mark W. Anderson
188th Fighter Wing commander

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