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30th SW commander bids farewell

Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, is interviewed by Airman 1st Class Robert Volio, 30th Space Wing photojournalist, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Balts' upcoming change of command will introduce Col. Christopher Moss as the fifteenth 30th Space Wing commander. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Araos/Released)

Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, is interviewed by Airman 1st Class Robert Volio, 30th Space Wing photojournalist, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Balts' upcoming change of command will introduce Col. Christopher Moss as the fifteenth 30th Space Wing commander. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Araos/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Inside the 30th Space Wing headquarters building resides the commander, Col. Keith Balts. His office, once embellished with team photos from past and current assignments and memorabilia received while wing commander, is now vacant of such ornamentations. All that remain are a man and his memories of Vandenberg Air Force Base that will accompany him on his next journey.

Balts, whose upcoming change of command will introduce Col. Christopher Moss as the fifteenth 30th Space Wing commander, reminisced about his time at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

"It has been extremely rewarding, sometimes challenging, but always inspiring," said Balts. "I've been afforded an amazing vantage point to witness an extraordinarily diverse and high performing team in action.  It is an absolutely incredible and humbling blessing to watch and be a part of this mission, this base, and this community."

With so many crucial moments during his two years as commander, picking one that stood out the most was impossible for Balts.

"You look back over the past two years; the first SpaceX launch, the second Delta IV Heavy launch, the third X-37 landing, the first successful missile intercept in over five years, the first Pegasus launch in over seven years, and the first inspection under the new criteria where the wing earned a 'Highly Effective' for mission execution; they are all historic events Team V should be extremely proud of," said Balts. "These key milestones also extended beyond our core mission and built an even stronger base community with new dining options, a new Education Center, and the re-opening of base services previously closed.  What makes these and so many other mission successes shine even brighter was that they occurred amid significant challenges: sequestration, civilian furloughs, a government shutdown, force management cuts, and many others.  More than just the sheer magnitude of results, the way in which wing leaders and individual Airmen overcame these challenges was eye-watering, too.  The personal and professional connections among this wing are what made so many things possible and what I will miss the most when it's my time to go on to the next Air Force adventure."

The impact Balts has had on Airmen and those he came across daily during his tenure is evident, especially those who've worked closely with him.

"Working with Col. Balts was a great experience," said Capt. Sean Millner, 4th Space Launch Squadron Alpha flight commander and previous chief of Col. Balts' Commander's Action Group. "He is incredibly dedicated to the men and women of Team Vandenberg and motivates his team to not only make our mission and Airmen successful, but also make the 30th Space Wing and Team Vandenberg a great place to be. No matter what was going on, Col. Balts always wanted to make sure our Airmen's best interests were at the forefront of our decision making. Taking care of Airmen is very important to him."

"Col. Balts is an outstanding officer that can relate to all levels in the military, civilians and contractors," said Col. Marc Del Rosario, 30th Operations Group commander. "He possesses three great traits - self-awareness, vision and communication - that inspire and encourage others to follow and achieve great things. He worked as well with civilians and contractors as he did with the military and their families."

Balts provided some words of wisdom for Airmen seeking to become future leaders.

"Gain as much experience as you can," said Balts. "First and foremost in your primary job, then find ways to gain even more in other pursuits.  We can never stop learning about leadership.  Those who have been blessed to be a wing commander - my predecessors or Col. Moss after me - we're all products of what the Air Force provided to us over 20 plus years of leadership experiences. Whether they were individual conversations with senior mentors or junior Airmen, or difficult assignments that were challenging but highly formative, they all help build the perspective and skills needed at the next level.  You'll not only learn more about how to make mission execution better, you'll also learn how to improve care for Airmen and their families, too."

The 30th SW commander concluded with his reiterated recognition and appreciation for the members of Team V, an expression that can't be communicated enough.

"It is absolutely overwhelming the amount of gratitude I have, but will never be able to fully show, for all those that serve within the wing and around the base, including those who reside just outside of our gates," said Balts. "I'm inspired every day by what I see or what is shared with me - amazing Airmen, their sacrificing families, a highly supportive civic community - all accomplishing great things for our Nation and each other, me and my family included."