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The Air Force I Know…

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- It has been my sincere honor to command the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base. In every way, it has been the assignment of a lifetime; we launch rockets and test missiles for our country. We live on, work on, and take care of, the most beautiful property in the Air Force, and we are privileged to serve with the most amazing group of people in the world; the men and women of the United States Air Force.

In my career I've noticed some incredibly special Airmen. When I say Airmen, I mean active duty, guard and reserve military members, government civilians, government contractors, and military families. More and more, I see Airmen perform remarkable acts of service and kindness. It seems like the more I look for these acts; the more I see them. These acts are selfless, kind, and profound; leaving an indelible mark in my memory...and in my heart.

One day, I came home early to change uniforms for Airman Leadership School graduation. As I was getting ready, I heard children laughing and playing outside my window. Since we were on a military base, retreat began playing promptly at 5 p.m. At once, the ringing laughter stopped. I was curious, so I looked out the window. There stood two girls, shoulder to shoulder, facing the music, hands over their hearts, showing respects to our National Anthem. Tears sprang into my eyes. What kind of parents raise such children? United States Air Force parents.

Another day, I was working at my desk at Headquarters Air Force Space Command. I heard about a tragic vehicle accident at a nearby base that killed a young reservist. Very soon after the accident, a package crossed my desk that contained a service medal to be awarded posthumously to that reservist. When I saw who was submitting the medal, I paused, as it was a major in our Headquarters building. This major took the time to gather the information, write up the medal, and push for its approval; knowing the medal would ultimately be presented to the surviving parents. What kind of person thinks to perform such an act? A United States Air Force member.

Here at Vandenberg AFB, we've suffered serious budget cuts, making it impossible to continue such non-mission related contracts as grounds maintenance. A little more than a month after we stopped the contract, the grass had grown until it was about knee high. One evening, a military member and his wife decided to respect Explosive Ordinance Disposal Safety Day, designated as the first Saturday in May, by mowing and tending to the base's Senior Airman Dan Johnson memorial. One person drove by, saw what was happening, and volunteered to help...then another, and then another. Dan was an EOD tech, one of Vandenberg's own, married to a Santa Maria local, who lost his life in Afghanistan Oct. 5, 2010. What kind of people use their own time, equipment, and sweat to preserve a memorial during tough budget times? Members of the United States Air Force.

In response to these cuts, I've seen spontaneous acts of service across the base. A group of women spouses and their children mowed and cared for California Blvd., the base's main thoroughfare; someone mowed the entire Medical Group area, and even more recently, the Mission Support Group led the first Base Pride Day by mowing and caring for most of the cantonment area. So, despite tough times and deep budget cuts, we are surrounded by individuals so proud of Vandenberg AFB that they personally commit to caring for its appearance. What kind of people do this? Members of the United States Air Force.

We members of the United States Air Force have been under some scrutiny lately. Be that as it may, I am compelled to share what I see at Vandenberg AFB: a team of people, bound by a common mission, an uncommon sense of service, and a profound commitment to each other. We are the United States Air Force. I couldn't be more proud of the men and women of Team Vandenberg and our Air Force, nor could I be more honored to serve our Nation at their side.