2016: A Year in Review


Once again, a 12-month period has come and gone as Team BLAZE members briefly pause to recount the 14th Flying Training Wing’s numerous accomplishments experienced throughout 2016.


During the course of the year, the base not only gained new wing, group and squadron level senior leadership, resulting from changes of command, but Columbus lost senior leadership, at all levels, due to numerous retirements. Nonetheless, the 14th FTW successfully met its primary mission requirement to produce military pilots, subsequently training and graduating over 300 new Air Force pilots as well as 41 international partners, resulting in 56,642 sorties and 77,299 flying training hours.


Moreover, in 2016, Team BLAZE frequently advanced airmen, made evident through the numerous promotion and award ceremonies, to include recipients of both individual and unit level awards. The wing continued to “Feed the Fight” as Airmen deployed to support contingency locations overseas and stateside.


In January, Maj Gen James Hecker, 19th Air Force Commander, and Chief Master Sergeant Robert Boyer, then 19th Air Force Command Chief, visited the base to speak with Airmen and Community Leaders. Their visit provided the wing’s higher headquarters leadership an opportunity to experience firsthand, the diverse and far reaching aspects related to successfully accomplishing the 14th FTW’s primary mission of producing military pilots.


The following month, on Feb. 1, the Columbus AFB Community Club reopened after the completion of a nine-month, 1.3 million maintenance and renovation project. During that same month, the 14th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Emergency Services Flight won the Air Education and Training Command Department of Defense Fire Department of the Year (Medium Category) Award. The most Reverend Neal Buckon, Auxiliary Bishop from the Roman Catholic archdiocese for the military services, arrived on base on Feb. 13 for his annual visit. During a service, he anointed several Team BLAZE members.


During a “free to public” seminar held on Feb. 18, Capt. Jason Greer, 14th FTW Safety Officer, teamed with Columbus Golden Triangle Airport, Mississippi State University’s Flight Research Laboratory and Aurora Flight Sciences to discuss, with local community members, the threat of drone to manned aircraft operations. On Feb. 25, Scott Colon, Mississippi District 16, District Attorney and guest speaker for the Black History Luncheon, held at Columbus Air Force Base, addressed his concern of African American History being is an integral part of American history, but is often an underrepresented portion.


Columbus AFB leadership partnered with the local community, on March 10, during a reception held in the wing headquarters newly upscale-interior-designed lobby area. Wingmen and Airmen watched a Columbus AFB Heritage video and afterward, Col. John Nichols, then 14th FTW Commander, gave a short brief which highlighted the current and future events planned for the wing. Later, on March 24, Airman Leadership School held a graduation ceremony at the Columbus Club for 16 enlisted Airmen, Class 16-3 graduates.


 In April, Chief Master Sgt. Rita Felton, then 14th FTW Command Chief, spoke with retired and active-duty chief master sergeants during a Chief Luncheon at the Columbus Club. The monthly luncheon provided an opportunity for present and share ideals, life lessons and experiences conducive to enhancing the careers of active duty chiefs.


On May 13, Community College of the Air Force graduated 31 Airmen during a ceremony at Kaye Auditorium. The following month, Nichols gave his final “All Call” as commander on June 21.


As part of an Independence Day celebration on July 1, Columbus AFB joined the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Army Corps of Engineers, Lowndes County, the Air Force Association and the City of Columbus to create a most memorable community fireworks event. The Fireworks on the Water took place at the Stennis Lock and Dam in Columbus. Later that month, on July 22, Team BLAZE welcomed Col. Douglas Gosney, 14th FTW Commander.


 During the month of August, the Columbus AFB Chapel sponsored a three-day weekend ‘get away’ to the Central Hill Baptist Retreat Center for 15 single airmen. The retreat, designed to address spiritual resiliency, also presented a training module titled, “How Not To Marry A Jerk (ette).” On Aug. 12, Team BLAZE recognized 12 senior enlisted noncommissioned officers during an induction ceremony held at the Columbus Club. On Aug. 17, a team of senior leaders from Mercedes-Benz of Tuscaloosa visited the 14th FTW to conduct their offsite training program, designed to learn more about leadership.


On Sept. 12, Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, AETC commander, and Chief Master Sgt. David Staton, AETC Command Chief, spoke to Team BLAZE members regarding future changes for the training command as well as his perspective regarding airpower and the importance of becoming great Airmen. Three days later, on Sept. 15-18, the 49th Fighter Squadron Association held their annual base reunion of past and present unit members. Retired Lt. Col. Jack Lenox, a World War II pilot who was credited with five confirmed kills was among the visitors. American Idol seventh season winner, singer and songwriter, David Cook, performed for Airmen and family members at Columbus AFB during a free outdoor concert held Sept. 25.


On Oct. 8, Fire Prevention Week began with a parade through the base housing areas and later an Open House which allowed visitors to understand and appreciate the importance of fire prevention education and awareness. On Oct. 29, the 48th Flying Training Squadron held its 20-year reunion. The heritage celebration honored those brave men and women who paved the way for those who followed in successfully accomplishing their flying mission. 


After the welcoming extra hour of sleep from Daylight Savings Time on Nov. 2, The Columbus Community celebrated the Veterans Day Holiday with a parade and ceremony held Nov. 11 in downtown Columbus.


On Dec. 13, the tree-lighting ceremony marked the end-days to a long productive year. Meanwhile, other personnel attended Christmas parties and luncheons, finished administrative requirements and made plans to share their much needed time-off with family and friends.  


As we move forward into the year 2017, here’s wishing our BLAZE Team a most fulfilling and prosperous New Year.