Thank You

  • Published
  • By Col. James C. Vechery
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander

I would like to begin my last article in the Tanker Times the same way I began my first one--by simply saying "Thank You." Thank you for your selfless service to our nation and for all your dedicated efforts to guarantee our freedoms. As I sit down to write my final article as Commander of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing, many thoughts are going through my mind. I think back to my first article where I discussed my priorities and things I value. I said they are best summed up in the word FAMILY. The first three letters in the word FAMILY stand for Faith, Affection, Military and describe my priorities, while the last three letters, Integrity, Loyalty, You, describe the things I value. I commented that family is a word that means a great deal to me, because I consider family the cornerstone of our society.

Over the past 16 months, I have thought of you as my family and I am very blessed and humbled to have the privilege of being your Commander. Over this short time, I've watched you soar and make our collective vision, "Team McConnell...The Air Force's Center of Air Refueling Excellence," a reality.

As you are very familiar, our focus is: "One Family...One Mission...Forging Our Future Through Excellence." As One Family, I've shared with you as we grieved over the loss of our dear friend and leader Colonel Mike Krueger. Executing our One Mission, I've watched you take on multiple challenges and excel at every turn. Finally, in Forging Our Future Through Excellence I've witnessed you set a course for our bright future, guaranteeing Team McConnell (AIRPOWER!!!) continues to execute its global mobility mission with unsurpassed excellence.

Make no mistake; McConnell is well known throughout the Air Force for delivering on our motto "We Lead!" I recently received an e-mail I would like to share to illustrate this point. Deputy Group Commander of the 100th Operations Group, Lt. Col. Jim Crutchfield, writes:

"My family and I would like to pass on a thank you to the McConnell AFB Honor Guard. They did an outstanding job last Saturday the 13th of June at my Dad's funeral service in Coffeyville, KS. My father was laid to rest with appropriate military honors thanks to your Honor Guard volunteers. He served in both the Army and US Air Force, retiring as a Lt Col from McConnell AFB in 1970.

After the funeral service, I told my grateful family what our Airmen face by supporting home station operations in shops that are often short-handed and regularly engage in long deployments. They were awed that anyone would volunteer for Honor Guard duty on top of all of that but it was too late to find someone to thank in person. Please pass along our heartfelt thanks for their service in general and last Saturday's outstanding service in particular.

"DUCEMUS" ...Truer than ever."

This was just one small example of the multitude of accolades I receive about you on a regular basis. From passing six major inspections in nine months with flying colors, to seamlessly growing our fleet from 30 to 48 KC-135s, to partnering with our downtown community to raise more than $12,000 for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, to crushing the other bases in this year's Match-Up competition, to taking Total Force Integration to the next level, you all perform magnificently at every turn.

Never forget your dedicated and selfless efforts are critical during this time of war. To quote President Ronald Reagan, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free!"

Thank you for taking the fight to the enemy to ensure the next generation enjoys the same freedoms we have today. Thank you for making this a very rewarding command tour for me and my family. We truly are One Family...One Mission...Forging Our Future Through Excellence! God bless you and the United States of America!