Unwavering faith in 4th FW Airmen

  • Published
  • By Col. Patrick Doherty
  • 4th Fighter Wing commander
As I've transitioned to commander, I'm honored, privileged and humbled to lead the 4th Fighter Wing. The passing of the guidon often results in changes of objectives, priorities and focus for a wing. Yet, I can tell you with great confidence Seymour Johnson's change of command represents the most seamless transition of command and authorities this wing has ever experienced as Colonel Kelly and I share similar views and perspectives on this wing's Airmen, efforts, challenges and focus areas. The wing's priorities remain the same as we will simultaneously start preparing to protect Soldiers and Marines this summer in the mountains of Afghanistan while also sharpening our skills to deploy at a moment's notice to operate and impose our will in major combat operations in today's hot spots, which we will ultimately highlight during ACC's Phase I Operational Readiness Inspection in October. But most importantly, we will emphasize caring for our great Airmen and their families, for they truly are our nation's finest and deserve our greatest efforts to ensure they are well cared for and combat ready.

I would like to personally thank all the Airmen and their families for their service to our nation. We have the number one Air Force in the world because of our great people. You have all raised your right hand to support and defend the constitution, be a part of something bigger than yourself; ready to lay down your lives to defend our freedoms and way of life. Each and every one of you, no matter what rank, job or responsibilities are incredibly important. You hold a special purpose and make an enormous impact toward mission success every day. And for that, we will continue to prioritize Airmen and their families first and care for their physical, social, mental and spiritual health to ensure they are resilient for today's demands strengthen their personal readiness.

Again, this summer the 4th FW will be called upon to send Airmen and air power downrange to protect our nation's 18-year-old Soldiers and Marines, while providing precise, devastating destruction upon our enemies. At the same time, we continue to sharpen our sword for an ORI and real world contingencies to verify we can execute major combat operations in the world's hotspots on a moment's notice. I have unwavering faith that our team will meet and exceed the levels of excellence and discipline expected by our combatant commanders downrange, our ground forces engaged in combat, our major command and our forefathers who started our rich heritage. There is no doubt we have challenges in front of us.With respect to the ORI, the standards are high and many wings across the Air Force have not met those rigorous expectations recently due to compliance and preparation issues. To that end, we must all focus our energy and efforts for the next few months toward training, exercising, and preparing our mobility and deployment skillsets to ensure we are postured for success. It is important to understand and not confuse real world AEF taskings with that of the intent and objectives of the ORI. Although both highlight the same basic skillsets, the ORI is a challenging evaluation to see that all personnel, actions, documentation, functions and organizations are executing the mission with a culture of compliance toward technical orders, Air Force instructions, and other higher headquarters guidance -- one of the Chief of Staff's main priorities for the Air Force. Our efforts are going to require visible and engaged leadership and our daily habit patterns must embrace a disciplined approach to remaining compliant.

With that said, it is often insightful and a great source of motivation to reflect on the past in which history plays such a critical role. Again, it is great Airmen from the past that I find so motivating and pack a powerful punch of purpose and connection to who we are and what we do today. The 4th FW's rich heritage of excellence spanning more than 70 years is inspiring and helps give meaning to our daily efforts and sacrifices. We are the home of the Eagle Squadrons. Yet, there were a few American patriots who predated those squadrons and were on point and led the charge. It was the summer of 1940 and Hitler was rolling over Europe and preparing to invade England to seal Europe's fate. The United States was still a neutral country with strong isolation tendencies. Seven American heroes from big cities and farms across the country couldn't remain on the sidelines as an evil ideology was trying to reshape Europe. Risking their citizenship, in Spitfires, they fought side-by-side with Britain's finest over the English Channel in an area called Hell's Corner, surrounding the White Cliffs of Dover. They helped England win the greatest air battle in the history of aviation, thus preserving a sovereign nation. A famous Winston Churchill quote would commemorate all those who fought the Battle of Britain, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

These seven Americans were amongst "the few." Their stories flooded the airwaves and newspapers, motivating the hearts of other like-minded Americans, who eventually populated our famous Eagle Squadrons. Alex Kershaw's book, The Few, quotes American radio broadcaster Quentin Reynolds describing these young men on his broadcast, "This is the story of some of our countrymen who did not wait to be stabbed in the back. Long before the rest of us realized it, these boys, with that deep wisdom given to the very young, knew that this too, was our war. They were no adventurers, killing for gain. They couldn't resist the call of their blood; liberty and tolerance and love for freedom had been bred in them."

It was a critical time in history and these great Americans took a stand. Only one of the seven survived the war. Future Eagle Squadrons and the 4th Fighter Group would lose more than 40 percent of their pilots during the conflict. They all served the greater good selflessly. The original seven did not have any children, yet their direct descendents, their aviation legacy, is you, the great Airmen of the 4th FW. The "few" successfully handed down an expectation of excellence to our generation. Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do -- these are our core values today. They are the same values those seven heroes lived by some 70 years ago.

There's no doubt the 4th FW is "All in" and we always have been. World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Cold War, Gulf War, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom; we will continue to do the heavy lifting for the Air Force with our unyielding standards of discipline, teamwork, energy, expertise, compliance and courage. That is who we are, that is what we do and that is what is expected. Historians and Air Force senior leaders for years have identified our wing's heritage, record of exceptional performance, and continued successes and efforts in today's conflicts as phenomenal, calling the 4th FW "the crown jewel of the Air Force." Again, we have a great opportunity to rise to the occasion and continue to hold the line for our nation. Our lineage fuels my unwavering faith that we will continue to succeed. It is the wing's destiny and our Air Force and nation are depending on it. I look forward to working and serving with each of you.