Commentary by Col. Bill Rittershaus
50th Space Wing vice commander
During the recent Thanksgiving weekend, I was reflecting on my initial motivation for joining the Air Force due to my thankfulness for already having been able to serve 20 years. My initial interest in the Air Force was spurred by family connections. My father had served more than 35 years in the Air National Guard, and I had a fighter pilot uncle who had recently retired from the Air Force following 25 years of service.
However, two concepts were my main motivation when I signed my ROTC contract. First, I was motivated to serve a cause greater than myself. I wanted to know my work would be benefitting a cause in which I believed, and helping protect our country was just such a cause. Second, I had a strong desire to be part of an organization that held itself to high standards and expected people’s best. The Air Force definitely fit this bill, which was later articulated in our Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.
Our Air Force core values are at the heart of a couple of topics that have been at the forefront of my thoughts. First, we welcomed our Air Force Space Command Inspector General team during the last couple weeks to conduct our Consolidated Unit Inspection. This was an opportunity that comes along every few years to prove how well we perform our mission. By remaining true to our core value of “excellence in all we do,” we backed-up our 2011 General Thomas S. Moorman, Jr. award for best wing in Air Force Space Command with an excellent rating. We saw tremendous motivation and progress during the months leading up to the inspection. You should all be proud and confident with your work and what you do day-in and day-out for our wing.
The inspection validated that we know and execute our mission well. While a short break from the high operations tempo is well deserved, our preparation and the inspection highlighted areas where we can improve. Our core value of “excellence in all we do” compels us to take these lessons learned and adjust our processes to push our high standards even further upward. I challenge each us to find those lessons learned during the past several months and dedicate ourselves to finding enduring fix actions to make sure we do not have to relearn the same lesson a year from now when the next inspection is coming around the corner. Furthermore, we need to engrain the processes we found beneficial during the inspection preparation into our routine wing activities. This will ensure we leave our replacements with programs in even better shape than we inherited and keep the wing enduringly “inspection ready.”
The second topic that has been on my mind recently is the Air Force’s battle against sexual assault in our service. In 2010, the Air Force commissioned Gallup to conduct a comprehensive study on sexual assault throughout the force. To say the least, the results were staggering. Among the current Air Force population, 18.9 percent of women and 2.1 percent of men reported having had experienced some form of sexual assault while in the Air Force. This is simply unacceptable. It is untenable with our core values and a service that holds itself to higher standards.
Last week, commanders conducted a health and welfare inspection of all work space and office across the Air Force to assure the work areas encouraged an environment of dignity and respect for all members. Once again, the men and women of the 50th Space Wing displayed their professionalism, as our work areas were devoid of inappropriate material. However, our core values call us to take this professionalism, dignity and respect beyond simply our work areas and engrain into all activities whether on-base or off-base. We all completed Bystander Intervention Training during the past year and understand situations and environments that can encourage sexual assault. Let’s put this training into use 24/7, on or off base, to ensure we have a service that truly holds itself to its core values and drive the number of sexual assaults in the Air Force to the standard … zero.
Finally, thank you for the great preparation and excellent performance during the two-week inspection. Your efforts are vital to the pursuit of the 50th Space Wing vision to be the unrivaled leader in satellite operations prevailing across all environments. Congratulations!