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It's great to be an Airman

Col. David Petersen, 47th Operations Group commander

Col. David Petersen, 47th Operations Group commander

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- What a great month we've had at Laughlin! I believe the most important accomplishment was that every single Airman, family member, civilian and contractor who was with us before the holidays returned to us safely after the holidays. Further each and every one survived the incredibly rare snow and ice storm this month. It is easy to take those accomplishments lightly, but were we to add up the thousands of miles driven and flown, we would see lots of great decisions were made. That daily great decision making and solid operational risk management is absolutely critical to our continuing successes in the USAF.

The unique opportunity to have both the 19th Air Force and Air Education and Training Command commanders visit us this month have also made it a month to remember. The hard work of Team XL left both bosses smiling and proud of every member of this great base community. For those fortunate enough to hear either Gen. William Looney's graduation address or attend one of Maj. Gen. Irving Halter, Jr.'s events, there is nothing quite like hearing about the Air Force from those who are so aware of the broad spectrum of operations underway.

It's often easy for us to fall into a mode of self or institutional doubt. We may reflect on the global war underway and feel disconnected from it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many of our own are deploying during their AEF rotation to serve in the theater. We have Airmen deployed anywhere from the normal rotation to 365-day tours, like Lt. Col. Lee Scifers, instructing and building the Iraqi Air Force. Here at home we train more than one third of the Air Force's pilots each year, nearly 350 graduates who will join the team and rapidly join the fight. We could not sustain the long war without the contributions of AETC and Laughlin is a key base in the command's training effort, and everyone on this base supports that effort.

Finally, as we approach our 60th anniversary as a service, it is only fitting that we reflect on the bigger picture, on what it means to be an Airman. Airmen are essential to our nation's security. Approximately 40,000 Airmen every day are supporting Combatant Commanders in the Global War on Terrorism. Over 5,000 Airmen are directly supporting the US Army "In Lieu Of" taskings, filling in on a one for one basis for a soldier. Every 90 seconds an Air Mobility command aircraft takes off, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all around the world. Daily we fly nearly 300 combat missions in the AOR consisting of Special Operations, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, air mobility, fighter and bomber missions. Nearly 50 of our aircraft are on alert or actively flying each and every day providing homeland defense. And without the Global Vigilance provided by our space forces, air ground and maritime operations around the world would be significantly more difficult with far greater risk. We should all be proud of being an Airman, proud of being a member of Team XL, and continue to exercise the great decision making and risk management that lets us continue bringing this great team to the fight.