Enlisted heritage, partnership building: cornerstones of our future

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Pamela Derrow
  • USAFE Command Chief
I recently returned from a trip to Lajes Field and I must say from top to bottom Lajes Airmen know their mission and how they support the Air Force's efforts to Fly, Fight and Win in Air, Space and Cyberspace. The pride displayed by 65th Air Base Wing Airmen in moving iron to and from the fight, supporting global communications, training ready and deployable Airmen and building bilateral relations is crucial to what we do here in USAFE.

One of the most impressive things I saw on my trip was the effort Lajes Airmen are putting into highlighting our enlisted heritage. As the senior enlisted member in USAFE, one of my areas of expertise is acknowledging and cultivating our enlisted Air Force heritage. We should be motivated by a sense of purpose that is continued by a deep appreciation for the accomplishments of previous generations of Airmen.

The Lajes heritage team, spearheaded by Master Sgt. James Richardson and representatives from the history office, Chiefs' Group, First Sergeants Council, Top 3 and Rising 6, has worked hard to create a 65th Air Base Wing Enlisted Heritage Room in the Top of the Rock Club, affectionately called the Torch. This room engenders pride and respect with a sense of perspective by giving Airmen as individuals or as a part of a greater whole a place to remember our history and honor the legacy of those who came before us.

I was extremely honored and humbled to be a part of the wall of firsts in our shared history by having my photo as the first female commandant of the Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer's Academy hang next to the trailblazers who proved the impossible was not unachievable and led the way for others in our ranks to follow. I'm grateful to join such notable Airmen as Esther Blake, the first woman in the Air Force, Grace Peterson, the first female chief master sergeant, and many others immortalized on your First Wall.

While the enlisted heritage room deserves notice, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the hard work that several units on Lajes are accomplishing toward our Air Force heritage. One project I want to call special attention to was done by Staff Sgt. Katie Gerner, 65th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller. Sergeant Gerner spearheaded a renovation of the her building's entrance way by designing, procuring and implementing a historical montage of air traffic controllers from Army Air Corps to present day. I give kudos to all Team Lajes Airmen who are working to find tangible ways to communicate our heritage to those who visit or are assigned to the 65th ABW.

Equally important to our enlisted heritage is our capacity to help others. I was awed during a briefing by Tech. Sgt. Kelli Wright when she spoke of the humanitarian assistance work done by the 65th Contracting Squadron in Botswana. The 65th CONS stepped forward as a unit to take on every humanitarian assistance request in that country in support of U.S. European Command and U.S. African Command's theater security cooperation efforts.

The Airmen of the 65th CONS are helping build capacity in Botswana by erecting HIV counseling and testing centers, as well as building orphan day care and youth centers to provide counseling, pre-school, day care and after-school programs for orphans and children of all ages. By improving Botswana's ability to take care of its people, Airmen are building lasting partnerships and securing global peace.

While I can't name every Airman I met on this trip who is doing great things, I want you all to know that USAFE leadership recognizes and appreciates the hard work you're doing and the sacrifices you make. I'm impressed by your motivation to make things better for those around you, and by going above and beyond in all you do.