Year in review

  • Published
  • By Col. Chris Crawford
  • 21st Space Wing commander
Allow me to share one inevitable law of nature I've observed: As we get older, time accelerates. If you're young enough to have not experienced this time dilation yet, you'll find out before too long - I promise. When I was eight years old, sporting bell bottoms and dodging water moccasins in the backcountry of Alabama, a year seemed to last forever. Summers between school years were endless. Now, the years (though still memorable) slip by much more quickly. My first year in command of this wing has been no exception. It's hard to believe it went by so quickly, but we have accomplished many goals in line with our wing priorities in that time. We have good reason to take pride in our work, and I couldn't possibly squeeze a list of everything we've done into a commentary. I will, however, take a few minutes to highlight some of the wing's key accomplishments:

Support the Current Fight
We continued to execute missions around the world in support of ongoing operations. To this end, we stood-up the 17th Expeditionary Space Control Squadron, the 721st Civil Engineer Squadron, and the 21st Medical Squadron to support contingency operations, sustain Cheyenne Mountain, and improve medical support to Schriever Air Force Base. The addition of those units brought the wing's total number of squadrons up to 29. Combined with our active groups, the 21st Space Wing encompassed the third most active units among all Air Force wings.

The wing also completed a new secure information facility at the 20th Space Control Squadron (to be officially opened later this month), enabling more efficient integration of intelligence and day-to-day operations. Across space situational awareness operations, we reinvigorated our focus on tactical-level mission planning - and the inherent expertise required to effectively execute it. Finally, Cheyenne Mountain built a new external fire station and brought online a new firefighting training system.

Lead Into the Future Fight
We prepared for future conflicts in several ways, including steps to bring the RAIDRS defensive counterspace weapon system online and reach initial operational capability. Crew sizes at five missile warning and space situational awareness units were reduced from three to two personnel. This shift enabled the plus-up of the 16th Space Control Squadron, the operators of RAIDRS. We also broke-ground on a 47,427 square foot space control facility to house RAIDRS.

In the cyberspace arena, the 21st Communications Squadron provided hands-on support to assist in the migration of more than 10,000 user workstations and servers from a legacy domain to the worldwide Air Force Network. Further, they leveraged capabilities of new technologies to implement the Apple iPad and iPhone pilot program for Air Force Space Command leadership - leading the way to bring Air Force information sharing to the next level.

Lead and Take Care of Our People
We completed a new child development center, Space Education & Training Center, and artificial turf sports field in line with our goal to make 21st Space Wing installations the best places to live, work and visit in the Air Force. Thule Air Base worked with AAFES to improve the product mix at their base exchange and made significant improvements to their "DormNet" internet service (an essential commodity for those stationed 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle).

The 21st Medical Group transitioned from compliance focus to one of patient-centered care and provided direct assistance to the Academy's 10th Medical Group during the Waldo Canyon fire, taking on additional appointments and filling needed prescriptions. The rest of the base stepped-up in true "service before self" fashion during the time as well, developing contingency plans, providing assistance to evacuees and coordinating regional Air Force volunteer efforts.

Innovation and Discipline
The wing exercised discipline in a thorough review of compliance programs via our "What Not to Do" initiative, taking into account both the criticality (how important is it) and the complexity (how time consuming is it) for each one. 437 recommendations from across the wing were assessed, and 119 were ultimately approved at the wing level for submission to the AFSPC What Not to Do Council.

In addition, the wing continued to press with the Thule consolidation - innovatively converting a once-secret Strategic Air Command arctic base into a modern, efficient platform for space operations. The 21st Security Forces Squadron slashed costs by adopting increased bicycle patrols, and improved effectiveness by transitioning to an "intelligent policing" model that focuses available resources on known problem areas based on data/trend analysis.

The wing's full semi-annual report is available on our SharePoint homepage. The first section of that report lists and provides a brief synopsis of major wing accomplishments over the past year, sorted by group. It's quite an impressive list, and I encourage you to both take a look at what you've helped to accomplish and consider what else you can lead your section, flight, squadron or group to achieve as we move forward.

If history and experience is any indication, our second year together in the 21st Space Wing will pass even more quickly than the first. No matter how quickly it seems to go, though, I know that we will take the time to examine our priorities, explore any opportunities for innovation, and lead our Airmen through another impressive year. The 21st Space Wing plays an indispensible role in defense of our country, dominating the high ground for our nation and its allies. Keep dominating your own personal high ground, and keep at our wing priorities!