DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. --
Penned June 6, 2019:
Today, as I write this farewell missive, Hercules aircraft assigned to 22nd Air Force are flying over Northern France, painted with invasion stripes, and once again dropping airborne forces over the beaches of Normandy. On this 75th Anniversary of Operation Overlord, the liberation of Europe, it is a good time to reflect on my past 20 months serving as commander of 22nd Air Force. America’s “longest day” 75 years ago is a great example of service, sacrifice, and sheer courage. As I look at my great team of Reserve Citizen Airmen, today I see the same dedication, the same willingness to sacrifice, the same courage to serve our Nation. Like those Airmen over Normandy, then and now, you have far exceeded my expectations and have been an honor to serve with.
Undoubtedly, the most enjoyable part of command has been visiting our work places and flight lines, the back shops, and especially visiting our trainees preparing to attend Basic Military Training. Collectively, it is amazing how much you do for America and how much you have accomplished. For example, Military Training Instructors assigned to 22nd Air Force have recently graduated over 200 Airmen from basic training, using only Reserve instructors – a first. Additionally, one in every four officers graduating from Air Force pilot training today has been trained and mentored by 22nd Air Force instructor pilots. There is no higher honor than growing the next generation of Air and Space warriors!
In flight operations, you have maintained a continual air presence supporting contingencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. You have effectively met the enemy with airdrops, dirt landings, and offloads of war materials much like your counterparts did 75 years ago. You have used ingenuity and risk management to maintain aging birds – our C-130 Hercules – in combat ready status regardless of the challenge. At home, your special mission skills have saved lives and property through hurricane hunting, fighting wildfires, and spraying disease vectors, all using the C-130. Furthermore, you have kept both elected and senior defense officials safe and on-target with our C-40 aircraft around the world. As a matter of fact, three of them have joined with our C-130s today over Normandy in that commemoration.
Flight operations cannot occur effectively without the assist of our agile combat support forces. Today, you remain rapidly deployable to keep our bases from which we fight alive and well. You have taken on the challenge head-on of rebuilding Tyndall Air Force Base following the devastation of Hurricane Michael. You are innovating for tomorrow to keep our adaptive bases effective against a peer adversary. In the flight test community, 22nd Air Force is front and center in the F-35 and KC-46 test programs, while also returning combat aircraft back to their units following depot maintenance. For only the second time in history, a 22nd Air Force flight test crew took great personal risk to fly a heavily damaged B-1 bomber back to a repair facility. Additionally, you have been recognized as the best joint operations planners and tacticians in the business, planning for tomorrow’s contingencies while experimenting with airlift tactics to keep one step ahead of our adversaries today.
The Airmen who executed Operation Overlord 75 years ago earned the right to join the Greatest Generation of American service members. Reserve Citizen Airmen of 22nd Air Force have earned the right to be part of the greatest Air Force and Air Force Reserve the world has ever seen. Perhaps the highlight of my command tour has been the honor of awarding the Airman’s Medal to a 22nd Air Force officer who has a spouse and young children. One day driving to base, he was faced with a dilemma: to jump into an overturned, burning car to save two lives or to stand on the sidelines and wait for rescue services. He opted to jump into the flames with the same courage and dedication as those Airmen before him and those serving alongside him. Similarly, you have each selflessly written a blank check to the United States to be cashed in an amount up to and including your life.
It has been an honor and privilege to serve as your commander. As General Eisenhower said on the eve of D-Day, “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.” Continue your long legacy of service, sacrifice, and courage. Godspeed Airmen!
- Maj Gen Craig La Fave