Every Airman an innovator

  • Published
  • By Col. Jamie Crowhurst
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
As I reflect on the events of the past year, these words ring true across Team McConnell; Problem-solving innovation is what makes Airmen unique in respect to our brothers and sisters in arms from other services.

Your individual contributions, adaptability in tough situations and your advancement of any organization you join are critical to joint operations all over the world. With that in mind, I'd like to share a few highlights with you.

Total force Airmen from the 22nd Air Refueling Wing and the 931st Air Refueling Group generated, launched and flew more than 40,000 hours providing "Ready Mobility" to combatant commanders around the globe. This record breaking number of flight hours fueled the fight for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; maintained special operations air refueling and nuclear support precision; delivered hope in the form of four NCAA College football coaches who toured U.S. Central Command; and saved lives moving wounded soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines on flights from places like Bagram, Afghanistan. Together we provided air refueling, airlift and aero-medical evacuation wherever and whenever needed.

Ready Mobility doesn't happen without Ready Airmen, and Senior Airman Steven Jones from our Aircraft Maintenance Squadron showed why adaptability is critical to being a Ready Airmen.

He deployed to a location where mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle were being shipped by sea and then flown to Afghanistan. There were no KC-135s at his location, but they needed maintainers to keep the airflow moving, so he jumped into his daily duties and did whatever was needed to get the expeditionary base up and operating. His leadership was so impressed with his contributions they had him drive an MRAP off a ship to the airfield for loading on to an airplane...talk about moving the mission!

Front-line leadership is the core of Team McConnell's Ready Airmen, and I am humbled and inspired by Airmen who take the lead to improve their team. One great example is Staff Sgt. Julius King, 22nd Medical Support Squadron Pharmacy Support NCOIC. He was recently elected to be the President of Route 5/6 and has pledged to purposely develop NCOs and Airmen around the base.

I saw his leadership firsthand as he played a critical role in the planning and execution of medical support for our Open House and Airshow. His efforts, along with so many others, helped us connect with nearly 100,000 people from the local community.

Putting on our Open House was also a great way to showcase all we do to maintain a Ready Base. It all starts with good facilities to work from and our civil engineers take this responsibility to heart and they get lots of practice! For example, 1st Lt. Tiffany Van Denbroeke, 22nd Civil Engineering Squadron Readiness Flight commander, is currently deployed as a project engineer and is personally responsible for $154 million in construction...she's contributing to "ready bases" that will aid our joint forces and NATO allies throughout Afghanistan.

"Pilot for A Day" is a unique program our operations group started to showcase our team, and 1st. Lt. Mike Sadler and 1st. Lt. Mike Vilven lead it. The program invites children "fighting a health battle" and their families to become a part of our Team McConnell family. They fly a flight simulator, view planes taking off from the tower, shoot the water cannon on the fire truck, witness our military working dogs in action and tour a static display of a KC-135!

Their day concludes with a party where they're presented with patches and a plaque in their honor. They walk away knowing that they're now part of Team McConnell, and that we're fighting with them. This program happens because we have Airman on this base who care about making a difference in the lives of others...that's awesome!

It is truly my honor and privilege to serve beside the men and women of the 22nd ARW. Every Airman I meet has proven to be an innovator; dedicated to contributing to the team, adapting to achieve our goals and advancing the mission we carry out for our nation. I am honored to be your commander and look forward to all that you'll accomplish in the coming year. Have a Happy Holiday season, enjoy some well-earned relaxation, and please be safe!