New BLAZE TEAM commander focuses on mission

COLUMBUS AFB, Miss. -- The Blue Line of the Air Force runs long and deep at Columbus, where this community has joined with the military to build a heritage from the earliest days of airpower.

From Capt. Sam Kaye, the World War I ace from Columbus, to the visionary citizens who saw the gathering storm clouds of World War II and banded together to bring the Army Flying School to Columbus six months before Pearl Harbor.

This heritage continued proudly through 14 years in Strategic Air Command, after which the flying training mission returned to Columbus. It blended lineage and World War II combat honors with the 14th Group that saw battle over Normandy, Italy, north Africa, the Rhineland, and central Europe, and the combat honors of the 14th Commando and Special Operations Wings in Vietnam.

As the Airmen of 14th Flying Training Wing write the next chapter of this fantastic story, it is my humble privilege to serve as your commander. We will continue to build the legendary partnership with the citizens, community leaders, honorary commanders and Wingmen from the City of Columbus. Louisa and I have concluded that southern hospitality must have been invented in Columbus, because nowhere in the South have we ever felt more welcome!

Thank you for the honor you brought to Col. and Mrs. Wilson and the wing through the beautiful ceremony last Friday. As the new guy on campus, I can honestly tell you that the BLAZE standard is exceptionally high, and you should take pride in this. From the big, visionary projects to the smallest detail, the BLAZE team does everything right, and has Air Force and major command-level awards to prove it!

Columbus is one team -- officers, enlisted, contractors, civilians, international officers and most importantly, our families. We are one Air Force family, and Louisa and I will take care of you as we take care of our own family, whether training in peacetime or deployed in combat. We thank the Lord for his support, strength and protection, and pray that this strength and protection will continue to bless the wing.

I am passionate about airpower, and especially about the Columbus mission. Our nation's appetite for airpower is insatiable because Air and Space power wins wars with the least loss of blood and treasure. But as focused as we are on aircraft, it is our people that create airpower. That is why it is so important that we produce the best pilots and Airmen ready to deploy, and extend U.S. training and international cooperation on a personal, individual level to our 38 officers from 21 countries.

Albert Schweitzer said, "We teach what we know, we create what we are." We must both teach warfighting skills and reinforce our core values to create airpower. The instructor culture at Columbus is critical to producing disciplined pilots, but it is just as critical to support airpower and must extend to every flight, office and individual in this Wing. 

I have two other passions I will share during my command -- innovation and family.
Innovation is the foundation of our service. It is exciting, it is fun, and our Core Value of "excellence in all we do" practically demands it. 

Over 102 years ago, the seeds for our Air Force were sown from innovation at Kill Devil Hill. Today, the Air Force is in the midst of dramatic change as we downsize and recapitalize. 

To meet the challenge, Columbus must remain at the leading edge of innovation. We cannot wait for others to hand us the future, because there is no one else more prepared or more ready to create it than we are. We will do it.

And we will do it with our families on board. Our families must come first, because we cannot be outstanding Airmen, focused on the mission and innovation, if we are not secure at home and in our community. We can combine family and mission and enjoy both better than either alone! Now, I know that you have given 100 percent during a busy period, and there is more to come with hot summer flying and a wave of new leadership; but we will work together to keep our families our top priority and to make this the best assignment of your Air Force career.

There is no doubt that Columbus is the Showplace of the South, and for Louisa and I, there is no better job in the Air Force and no better day than today at Columbus AFB -- the Base of Choice in the Command of Choice.