Looking back, looking forward

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- This week marks my first anniversary as 45th Space Wing commander. It has certainly been a gratifying year as I review the accomplishments of the Sharks! 

We've had 15 launches on the Eastern Range during this time frame, including four shuttle missions to the ISS, two Delta II Global Positioning System missions, a NASA Delta II mission to study solar storms (STEREO) and another to study the auroras (THEMIS), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-sponsored Delta II "Mitex" mission, the first Air Force Atlas V mission (STP-1), the first National Reconnaissance Office Atlas V flight and four Navy missile tests. 

And while prosecuting these launch campaigns you managed to win enough Department of Defense, Air Force and Majir Command level awards to fill up two pages in the Missileer and to score an EXCELLENT on our Operational Readiness Inspection. I also accepted the Herres Trophy on your behalf at the 2007 Air Force Space Command Commander's Spring Conference, and our own Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Griffin, from the Mission Support Group, just made the Sharks proud by being named one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for the Air Force! One of my proudest moments as your commander came when our Guardian Challenge team earned the prestigious Schriever Trophy, stealing it away at the last moment from the 30th SW Chickenhawks. 

Even as we were getting the mission done and winning awards, we've never let down our warriors in more dangerous places - we continue to support them with our deployment responsibilities. 

We also spent some time retiring the old to make way for the new. We tore down the towers of Space Launch Complex-36, but Gen. Chilton, AFSPC/CC, gave us the green light to license SLC-40 to Space Exploration Technology, or SpaceX, for the brand-new Falcon 9 rocket. 

We also stepped up to a challenge personally delivered by the Secretary of the Air Force, and now we are modifying processes in place for years, so that we can build a smarter future for the launch enterprise using the Air Force Smart Operations 21 framework. We've also improved our support for our Airmen in little ways - Active Duty Sick Call at the clinic is one example of a new initiative that ensures the warriors of the Wing remain the focus of our business. 

So much accomplished and yet so much to do! I expect the next months will prove to be vital to our future as we execute our spacelift and expeditionary missions. Not only do we have a very busy launch schedule ahead of us, but we must not lose the momentum we've gained to posture the 45th SW for the national objectives that will be asked of us. 

For example, we will implement an energy conservation campaign and figure out how to improve our Cape Canaveral infrastructure. In a year, the Delta II booster line will be decommissioned - the 'old' must make way for the 'new'! The entire launch business is transforming, thanks to a revitalized entrepreneurial spirit, and unprecedented agility will be required of the Sharks to deliver a whole new class of responsive satellites to orbit in just a couple of years on rockets we haven't even seen yet. It's a monumental change in our way of doing business, and yet all national expectations are that the Sharks will not hold up progress, but will lead the way! 

Stay sharp and stay focused. Prepare your teams for the future, for the challenges that will be asked of us are daunting yet critically important. Recognize the need to make improvements in your way of 'doing business', for we must adapt without extra money and extra manpower. Every member of this wing remains critical to our collective success, so continue to mentor and develop those under your supervision. I have not forgotten that it's you and your families who make it all possible, so we have several near-term initiatives to improve both your ability to accomplish your mission and your Quality of Life. In summary, as the future approaches, I'm confident the next year will be as exciting and challenging as the last one. Go Sharks!