LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Building combat ready leaders and warriors involves many steps—one of which is an understanding of the past.
With readiness and resiliency in mind, Master Sgt. (ret) Lee Blackwell visited Laughlin on May 2, 2019, to talk about how he turned tragedies and adverse experiences into lifelong tools for growth.
Speaking at an event in Anderson Hall here, Blackwell recalled his time in the U.S. Air Force as a tactical air control and party specialist, and how taking ownership of one’s job is vital to having a sense of place and direction in the force.
“I wanted to speak to as many members of Team XL as I could to fire them up about taking ownership for their jobs,” Blackwell said. “I’m also here to pass on my memories of [Airman 1st Class Raymond Losano] while he was alive, and the drive he had and his ownership of his job. It’s an important message to pass along.”
Losano was a Del Rio, Texas native and fellow squad mate of Blackwell who was killed during a patrol in Afghanistan with Blackwell in 2003. Blackwell took the opportunity to describe Losano’s dedication and ownership of his job, and how Airmen can emulate from his example.
“I owe it to him to pass on what kind of man he was, the kind of Airman he was, so his memory doesn’t die,” he said. “Because if I tell everyone about him, Ray is still alive, and I truly owe that to him.”
Chief Master Sgt. Brian Lewis, 47th Operations Group superintendent, believes the visit was very beneficial, especially for those who have less of an understanding of their job’s overall purpose, or for first-term Airmen who may have come to Laughlin.
“Laughlin is a very small, isolated base, and we have a lot of folks come to Laughlin with this being their first introduction into the military,” Lewis said. “It’s important to understand how the Air Force is much bigger than where many people may come from, and how people’s roles are much bigger than what they see.”
Blackwell also spoke about Losano before the 434th Flying Training Squadron’s Devil Dash 5k and 10k run. During the run, Blackwell helped encourage and cheered members of Team XL all the way to the finish line. The run, dedicated to the life and memory of Losano, raised more than three thousand dollars for the Air Warrior Courage Foundation.
The Air Warrior Courage Foundation was formed by fellow military aviators to provide total force military members with financial assistance not covered by the government or military programs.
“Everywhere we went, there were true professionals,” Blackwell said. “I’m very impressed with what they’re doing at Laughlin Air Force Base. I didn’t get to just see the flightline, I got to see as much as they could show me—they’re all rock stars.”