CHARLESTON, W.Va. --
As I sit here and write a farewell message to the Airmen of the 130th Airlift Wing, I find myself with a heart full of gratitude. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing Airman in the last three years. We have accomplished a lot by working together to make us all better. Our combined efforts have enhanced our ability to ensure that we are ready, trained, and equipped to deliver air mobility anywhere in the world when called upon. Nobody does it better!
In these last three years, we have built upon decades of previous excellence. The first aspect of this is the culture of the organization. Senior leadership has focused on making sure the Airmen of the 130th know they are valued, understand their history and heritage, and focusing on their career development. There has been a very deliberate focus on respect for others. As a team, we have worked to enhance all of these areas. We have instituted heritage-based events such as the formal dining out and upcoming combat dining in. We have sought to grow our enlisted councils. We have focused on being more deliberate in the development of ourselves as professional Airmen. This starts with our newest members and continues through our most senior leaders. This focus on feedback, development, and leadership has been reflected in all we do and will only continue to grow. As I have grown in my own career, three things stand out to me.
The first is accountability. Everything we do in our personal and professional lives comes down to a commitment to personal and professional accountability. Accountability should drive us to exceed the standard in all things. A standard is a baseline for being average, usually defining what the minimum level of acceptability is. Set your goals so that you strive to exceed those standards. Reject mediocrity in all of its forms. We all know when we are not doing so.
The second is development. Constant and continuous commitment to improvement is something that we hear talked about quite a bit. Why do we do PME? To get promoted? Well, it's a requirement, but the real reason we should is to be the best Airman that we can at any given time. To focus on what we learn and implement it. Development is not strictly PME based either. There are so many ways to develop ourselves and sharpen our swords. Retired Gen. James Mattis says, "the most important space on a battlefield is the six inches between our ears." For this to translate into action, we must develop that space just as much as we do mastering the nuts and bolts aspects of our technical specialties. Professional development and technical expertise are not mutually exclusive but instead result in a truly lethal Airman when they are combined. Anyone can go to a job and punch a clock, but not everyone has the honor of serving a mission greater than themselves. To truly appreciate that idea, I believe that we must study our history and heritage. We must develop ourselves to think critically and be innovative. Our adversaries all around the world are doing just that.
The third is a commitment. If we are not committed to accountability and development, then we probably need to do some internal thinking. To me, the inspiration to have the right level of commitment comes from many sources. It starts with knowing that we are a vital part of something much larger than ourselves. Do we understand that we stand on the shoulders of giants who laid the foundation for this thing we are a part of? When we are "all in" and committed to the mission, everything becomes much more manageable. The self-sacrifice that you make has a meaning and serves to hold you up when things get tough. The commitment we have to our fellow Airmen makes us a great or a lousy Wingman, and we decide which one in every action we take. I have a bunch of examples when a fellow Airmen has been there to check my level of commitment and give me advice as a Wingman! We stand together and understand that the commitment to the mission ensures the safety and security of our fellow West Virginians and the nation. It has been so amazing to see this level of commitment far exceed the standard at the 130th.
We are currently going through a nationwide challenge with the COVID-19 pandemic that is unique in the history of our experience. Once again, as our 130th Airmen have done for so long, we are meeting the challenge. Not only meeting but exceeding all expectations. We will get through this challenge, and it will be another reflection of why "Charlie West" is second to none. I want to thank each and every Airman in the 130th for an incredible three years. Your support, professionalism, and friendship have meant the world to me. I have tried my best to do those things that enhanced the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of all 130th Airmen. My simple hope is that I have helped everyone in some way that allowed them to achieve their goals while supporting the mission we are all so privileged to be a part of.
Going forward, I have no doubt that you are in the hands of a genuinely fantastic enlisted leader with Chief Master Sgt. Kevan Williams. I encourage you to stop by and say hello to him as he settles into his new role. He is going to do a fantastic job!
I have had a fantastic career and have been blessed beyond anything I could have imagined twenty-four years ago. I think all of us are a reflection of the leadership and mentoring we receive throughout our lives. If we embrace that leadership and take those lessons to heart, it sets us up to help others as we progress. The friends, mentors, and leaders that I have had are far too numerous to count. If I attempted to name them, I would undoubtedly leave someone out. So I will simply say thank you to all who have had such a profound impact on my life. I am forever grateful.
The one person I will name is my wife, Veronica. Throughout this journey, she has been right beside me through all the highs and lows with amazing love and commitment. We have been around the world and experienced so many different things. She epitomizes what it means to be a military spouse; resilient, flexible, and selflessly supportive. She is, and always will be, my number one Wingman, and I am the luckiest guy in the world to have her!
So, I'll not leave you with goodbye but rather farewell until I see you again. I wish all of you the best in everything you do!