COMUSAFE visits 501st Combat Support Wing in England

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Rich Romero
  • 423rd Air Base Group Public Affairs
Gen. Tom Hobbins, U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander, visited geographically separated units Jan. 8-10 that make up the 501st Combat Support Wing in England.

The general, accompanied by his wife, Robbin Hobbins, and USAFE Command Chief Master Sgt. Gary Coleman, visited with the 501st and its approximately 2,700-person workforce that includes about 900 active duty Airmen spread across seven geographically separated units.

Along the way, General Hobbins recognized more than 30 Airmen by presenting them with commander's coin, an Airmen Committed to Excellence coin, and by highlighting the missions these units perform by taping commercial spots to air on American Forces Network. During the visit, Mrs. Hobbins attended meetings with Airmen, their spouses and Department of Defense Dependents Schools officials to discuss quality of life issues.

"It was a real pleasure for me, my wife and Chief Coleman to meet with the fantastic Airmen of the 501st and their families. Presenting my personal coin to some of the top performers was a thrill," General Hobbins said. "What incredible Airmen we have at the U.K. GSUs."

Senior Airman Jayson Fuentes, a flight chief with the 423rd Security Forces Squadron at RAF Alconbury, not only was the featured Airman in the mission spot highlighting the joint and coalition team at Royal Air Force Alconbury, Molesworth and Upwood, but he also received one of the general's coins the following day.

"It was an honor for me," said the Lakeworth, Texas, native. "This tells me that my leadership has faith in me to represent not only my security forces squadron, but the entire 423rd. I'm just thankful for everything."

A centerpiece of the visit to RAF Fairford and Croughton concerned a first-hand look at transition planning for school-aged children impacted by the closing of London Central High School at Daws Hill at the end of the current school year--the only DODDS-run school supporting U.S. forces based at the two USAFE installations and nearby Navy sites.

As a result of the closing, area U.S. school-aged children will attend neighborhood British schools, according to Col. Blake Lindner, 501st CSW commander.

While at RAF Fairford, the general was convinced this is an opportunity to grab onto after meeting with the headmaster, faculty and students at Rendcomb College, one of the British schools.

"I'm pleased with the pace and encouraging results of transition planning for our children affected by this year's closure of London Central High School," General Hobbins said. "We do have more work ahead of us on issues such as transportation, two-year track system differences with American schools, lack of SAT-ACT prep testing, and uniform reimbursement. We'll continue to press forward to resolve these so our great Airmen and their families are fully supported by the non-DODDS program."

During the general's trip to RAF Croughton, one statistic that generally worries any commander brought a huge smile to his face. The military and family members of the 422nd ABG boast 104 consecutive days without experiencing a driving under the influence of alcohol incident.

"I want you to know how deeply proud and happy I am at your awesome accomplishment," said General Hobbins. "This success story means that lives were most likely saved because of your commitment to being safe. Our people are valuable and we don't want to lose a single life, and it takes leadership, wingmanship and paying attention to safety to make that happen."

General Hobbins said the alcohol-free incident period is especially significant at a time when USAFE is so highly engaged in a war on terrorism that affects all of the command's Airmen and family members.

It was apparent throughout his stops at the various GSUs that the USAFE commander and his command chief genuinely admire the work Airmen perform daily supporting the GWOT. Those very Airmen appreciate it, too.

"It says a lot about our daily jobs and the support that we give to the Air Force mission for USAFE leadership to take time out and visit us," said Tech. Sgt. Amy Conaghan, a medical services assistant NCOIC at RAF Croughton. "We work hard as a team and it's nice to be recognized."

General Hobbins addressed 501st Airmen at all stops as well as DOD and Ministry of Defence civilians at commanders' calls.

He covered a number of topics including the command's strategic priorities and landscape; vision, mission and goals; promoting stability, interoperability and influence in Eastern Europe and Africa; humanitarian missions; and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

In keeping with the high ops tempo and ongoing force shaping actions, the general stressed his personal commitment to Air Force Smart Ops for the 21st Century.

"We're working hard to right-size the work for the future work force through AFSO 21. We're improving processes and eliminating waste to reduce work hours and workload for people as we further right-size the force," the general said.

General Hobbins described AFSO 21 as a key tool for shaping USAFE, and he stressed that everyone is critical in picking up that tool and putting it to good use.

"I want everyone, no matter if they're wearing one stripe or four stars, to pass along their great ideas," General Hobbins said. "And I expect USAFE leaders to listen and ensure these ideas are converted into action."

The general summed up his impression of the visit by describing the 501st as a "team of seven GSUs that hits home runs every day."

Chief Coleman echoed those sentiments.

"USAFE is in good hands with the outstanding people we met during our trip here," Chief Coleman said. "I am proud to serve on the same team with Airmen from the 501st whose commitment to excellence is an example for all." (Contributing to this story: Tech. Sgt. Keith Houin from the 422nd Air Base Squadron at RAF Croughton)