After two full years, saying farewell

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- For the eighth and final time over two years, it is my privilege to address you from the Commander's Corner. It's hard to believe two years can pass so quickly, but the moving boxes stacked in our driveway and a quickly emptying house are sure evidence our days among the Sharks of the 45th Space Wing are ending. 

We hit the ground running with our arrival in June 2005. Just three weeks later, Space Shuttle Discovery launched, returning the U.S. human spaceflight program to orbit for the first time since Columbia in 2003. We all shared in the intensity, adrenaline rush and relief when Discovery made it to orbit and returned safely home two weeks later. 

The launch mission gets in your blood, and we felt that same intensity, rush and relief 25 more times as other astronauts were ushered to orbit, historic missions em-barked for distant planets, other warfighters took delivery of the space capability they needed - global navigation, communications, intelligence - and we helped the Navy provide ready, reliable deterrence. 

I'll remember the hurricanes as well. The Space Coast was fortunate that the 2005 season was not as severe as 2004, and 2006 passed with a whimper, but Wilma did come by late in 2005. And I'll always remember a weak storm, wobbling uncertainly off our shores in the Atlantic in late August 2005. 

It headed straight for the Cape at barely hurricane strength, but turned south at the last moment, skipped over southern Florida and continued into the Gulf of Mexico, gaining intensity as it went. I've often wondered if the storm had come ashore in its early stages and blew itself out here, would the nation would have suffered the painful wound we now know simply as "Katrina." 

Most of the memories are much more pleasant, including an opera-tional readiness inspection. Tre-mendous satisfaction comes from preparing for and conquering great challenges. Watching and working with all of the Sharks as the Inspector General team gave us their worst was, well ... "Excellent!" 

But as we give up the flag and leave town next Thursday, Mary and I will remember all of you most fondly - your pride, your passion, your pursuit of perfection. You make this the world's premier gateway to space and Space Command's number-one wing! 

We leave the 45th Space Wing with a Shark-shaped hole in our hearts. Only our future thoughts of you all will fill it. Thanks for the memories!