Cultivate, Create, Connect

  • Published
  • By Col. Samantha Weeks
  • 14th Flying Training Wing
Team BLAZE, as we approach this Labor Day, I wanted to thank each and every one of you for what you do for the 14th Flying Training Wing and the U.S. Air Force. Our nation understands today’s security environment is changing and we need to be ready to meet a near-peer threat on the battlefield and restoring readiness is vital to that strategy.

The mission of the 14th FTW directly impacts that readiness. Together, we graduate over 300 pilots annually and that directly supports the Air Force’s ability to be lethal and ready to fly, fight, and win. As the chief of staff wrote, “missions of the Air Force succeed or fail at the squadron level.”

The squadron is where lethality and readiness are generated, aligned, and sustained. It is where we have the most significant impact on our, “most precious resource … our Airmen.”

With the changes occurring in our national defense and our Air Force, I believe it’s necessary to change the mission of the 14th FTW to align ourselves better with our strategic leader’s vision.

As of today, the mission of Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, will be to:

Cultivate Airmen, Create Pilots and CONNECT!

Cultivate Airmen
I focused on this first because Airmen are our most precious resource. I believe this! However, I want to again broaden the definition of Airmen. Team BLAZE consists of 2,700 Airmen – officer, enlisted, active duty, reserve, civilians and contractors. Our mission couldn’t be accomplished without the efforts of each individual. Your development is critical to us remaining the world’s greatest Air Force.

Cultivate means to grow and prosper and that is what each of us should be doing – growing as individuals and growing those around us.

Cultivation comes in two areas:
1. Leader Development
2. Leadership Development

Leader development is you learning about yourself. Leadership development is about how you lead, manage, and interact with others. Both are cornerstones of what we do. This must be a primary focus. We will use professional development, on-the-job training, and other enrichment opportunities to cultivate our Airmen.

Developing each of us to be better at our craft is a necessity, and as Aristotle said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Team BLAZE is stronger as a team than 2,700 individuals can be.

Create Pilots
Second, to cultivating Airmen; we must meet the purpose of a flying training wing … create pilots. We take over 300 pilot candidates every year and teach them how to be military aviators. In 54 weeks we celebrate their graduation and them earning their silver wings. We are the largest pilot training wing in the Air Force and in Air Education and Training Command. We have the responsibility to create, from raw material, the best military aviators for our Air Force for our National Defense.

Creating pilots is not just about production and numbers, nor is it just about officers. It takes every single person to graduate a pilot. From the Airmen in the 14th Medical Group who ensure the pilot candidate is healthy to fly and the environment we all work in is safe; to the 14th Mission Support Group who ensure we are housed, clothed, fed, and fueled; to our maintenance partners who generate the aircraft; and to the Wing Staff Agencies who provide the personnel and resources to promote a healthy environment that is paid for.

This is an integrated team effort and is only truly efficient and effective with each of us working together. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and only together are we the premier pilot training wing and community, creating the world’s best Airmen.

This perhaps is the most unique part of Columbus AFB and one of the most important.

Partnerships are the center of gravity. We need to connect to our fellow Airmen because the wingman concept is foundational to who we are as a service. We don’t fly single-ship; we rely on someone to “check our six,” and that matters in the air and on the ground. We need to understand how each of us contribute to creating pilots. That takes connection and action.

We also need to connect our Airmen and our families. We often hear we recruit Airmen and retain families. So we need to ensure our families are supported and connected. We need to put action to these words and take care of our families from their arrival, to a deployment, and their departure permanent duty station.

Finally, we need to remain connected to our community. Columbus, Mississippi is the Friendly City and I want to continue to grow and strengthen this amazing relationship. I want us to find new ways to connect to them and find ways we can give back to a community that gives so much to Team BLAZE.

Understanding our mission and how each of us fit into the puzzle allows us to truly be a team and ensure the sum of our parts make a greater whole. Our Air Force leaders acknowledge that times are changing and resources are limited, but I know Team BLAZE can tackle any challenge if we Cultivate, Create, and Connect!

I am extremely proud to be your wing commander and look forward to all we do together for each other, our community, our Air Force, and our Nation. If you have ideas of how we can better Cultivate, Create, or Connect … drop me a line at (662) 434-1414 or