By 1st Lt. Jason Gabrick
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Col. James Ross, 50th Space Wing commander, held his final commander’s call here June 20 before his change of command, set to take place July 11.
The tone of the wing-wide meeting was one of both reflection and future vision. Ross wanted to gather as a wing one last time to present awards, provide an update to the current civilian personnel issues, deliver his safety message, introduce the new wing command chief and say “thank you.”
The commander opened with an award presentation outlining some of the wing’s recent top unit and individual performers.
Among the awards presented were three Air Force Space Command awards, two Defense Information Systems Agency awards and one Air Force award, the 9th Annual Department of Defense David O. Cooke award for Excellence in Public Administration, which was awarded to Larry Linnenburger with the 4th Space Operations Squadron.
Following the awards presentations, Bryant Rushing, Schriever civilian personnel officer, spoke briefly about the current civilian personnel issues and concerns. Rushing reflected on the work it has taken to carry out the Air Force’s pending civilian furloughs set to begin July 8.
“I want to assure you that your senior leadership put in a lot of work, a lot of angst and a lot of hard-dedicated time to mitigate the impact on our civilian workforce,” said Rushing. “You heard a lot of town hall discussions and the civilian workforce did a lot of good work to make sure [resumes] were where they’re supposed to be and up to date.”
Safety was another major issue on the agenda as 1st Lt. Jason Hill, with the 50 SW safety office, addressed a list of high-ticket safety concerns.
“We’re currently in the critical days of summer, which started on Memorial Day and end Labor Day,” said Hill. “The ‘critical days of summer’ is the time period when it is statistically more likely for a person to have bad things happen to them. This is usually caused by traveling and recreation and is usually due to a lack of experience, a complacent mindset or poor judgment.”
With El Paso County under fire restrictions, Hill stressed the importance of exercising caution when barbequing and using fireplaces as well as the prohibition against personal fireworks.
Ross then formally introduced the wing to the new 50 SW Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Lavon Coles, who shared a few words of encouragement.
“The reason why I am here is all of you,” said Coles. “I’m here to advance the boss’ initiatives, knock down barriers, obtain resources — all of those things — but really, I am here to make sure we grow together as professional Airmen. The only way we can get this done is to all be pulling in the same direction.”
Coles also shared his philosophy as the new command chief.
“To help us take care of people, here’s something you’ll hear from me constantly: Triple A; Attitude, action and accountability. Do your best to help keep the mission rolling and have a positive attitude at the same time, be mindful of your actions and know that accountability is not a buzz word in our Air Force.”
As Ross closed his final commander’s call, he shared a list of accomplishments since he took command 23 months ago. Items on his list included the successes of 1 SOPS with Operational Responsive Space 1, 2 SOPS’ continued success with the Global Positioning System, 50 FSS’ transition to a permanent Airman and Family Readiness Center, Tierra Vista’s privatized housing and many others.
At the top of Ross’ list were two things. The first, what he called his “number one operational priority,” the Integrated Operations Environment which brought 3 and 4 SOPS together on one operational floor.
“We’re already seeing the benefit of 3 SOPS and 4 SOPS working in the same space — sharing techniques and experience — and, when we get the mission partners in there it will just get better,” said Ross.
The second, his witnessing of “a historic undertaking” with the first automated satellite contact through the Air Force Satellite Control Network at the hands of 22 SOPS.
“I had the pleasure of witnessing the very first satellite contact using an automated function through AFSCN. It was a Defense Satellite Communications System satellite — Bravo 12 — I remember the bird’s name,” said Ross. “This is fantastic and is going to save us money year after year after year.”
Ross closed with a sobering message about the Colorado wild fires.
“Two years in a row, Colorado has broken its own record for fire disasters. It has been absolutely tragic. What happened in Black Forest and Waldo Canyon can happen anywhere and our fire department provided great support both last year and this year. I want to say thank you to the fire department for keeping us safe and keeping our communities safe.”
The final message Ross left the wing with at the end of the gathering was one of thankfulness.
“Look out for each other, look out for the people who work for you and from the bottom of our hearts, Antoinette and I want to thank you for two absolutely wonderful years,” said Ross. “You all have made the difference and gotten the job done. Every single one of you are critical in making sure this wing can execute its mission of commanding satellites to deliver decisive global effects.”