Success defined by quality, not awards

  • Published
  • By Col. Stephen N. Whiting
  • 21st Space Wing commander
Many years ago when I was a young officer, I heard a wise senior officer say that the success of a unit's performance was not defined by awards or honors received from others, but by the quality of the unit's service in fulfilling the mission. That has stuck with me over the years, and has always reminded me that a unit (or an individual) doesn't have to win an award to prove themselves top-performing.

With that said, being recognized by others with an award for outstanding performance is pretty awesome! So, the entire wing can take great pride in the recent announcement that we are the 2010 recipients of the Gen. Thomas S. Moorman, Jr., Award as Air Force Space Command's overall outstanding wing, and of the Gen. Robert T. Herres Award as AFSPC's most outstanding wing with a space mission. Needless to say, the competition was tough among our superb sister wings, but each of you can take pride in the outstanding contributions you have made in supporting our wing's mission and receiving this recognition.

How did we go about earning these awards? By the individual actions of each and every wing member.

For example, this morning we had the opportunity to pin the Purple Heart Medal on Staff Sgt. Mark Badger from the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron. Sergeant Badger is an explosive ordnance disposal technician who was wounded during an improvised explosive device attack last fall in Afghanistan while supporting the U.S. Army. In the aftermath of the blast that injured him personally, Sergeant Badger performed life-saving first aid on one of his teammates, even as another teammate perished following the attack. Sergeant Badger is a true hero who is an example of all the best qualities hundreds of 21st SW Airmen have brought to the Joint fight while deployed downrange.

I am also reminded of the extraordinary skill of our operational crewmembers, such as Maj. Warren Riner of the 21st Operations Group, who was the first space officer to ever serve as an overall mission commander during Red Flag. Major Riner and a team composed of members from across the wing led planning for our participation in Red Flag, our deployment to Nellis AFB, Nev. and our execution of the actual exercise. This "first-ever" event was a watershed moment in the integration of air, space and cyber capabilities. It will be but the vanguard of many repeated trips to Nellis AFB over the coming years.

Senior Airman Edward Todd, from the 21st Dental Squadron, also comes to mind. You may have heard Airman Todd's story before, but he and a friend used their sexual assault prevention Bystander Intervention Training to intervene and help a complete stranger when she was being pressured and threatened by a group of men outside a night club in Denver. Airman Todd put himself at risk to ensure this young woman made it home safely, and proved that you can be a wingman to anyone that needs assistance.

At Thule Air Base, Greenland, 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Capt. Heather Boos has been recognized repeatedly for her outstanding work as the 821st Support Squadron's Logistics Flight commander. At a place like Thule, where every pound of equipment, supplies and rations must be either shipped in during a very short port season or flown in to a single runway, the performance of the logistics officer can literally be a life or death issue. Captain Boos oversaw the flawless transportation and off-loading of 8.2 million gallons of fuel, worth $20 million, ensuring Thule AB had fuel to power their electrical power plants and for visiting aircraft. She also coordinated Arctic resupply operations out of Thule with our Canadian and Danish allies, proving once again that Thule AB is the most significant Arctic logistical facility in the Department of Defense.

Rusty Mullins at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station comes to mind as one of the dedicated government civilians who make up such a large part of this wing. Mr. Mullins' formal title is deputy commander, 721st Communications Squadron. But for the last year, he willingly stepped up to fill a gap as the 721st Mission Support Group deputy commander for all of CMAFS. In this capacity, he guided the 721st through the NSPS conversion, contractor-to-civilian in-sourcing, several multi-million dollar projects, preparation for the ORI/UCI and the renovation of the Missile Warning Center. Mr. Mullins could have turned down the opportunity to serve as the deputy group commander, but he enthusiastically embraced this new expanded role and did a fantastic job leading and representing the men and women of CMAFS.

Finally, Bob Orwig from the wing staff is another dedicated civilian who always ensures the mission gets accomplished. As our deputy director of staff, Mr. Orwig wears many hats. At any given time, you will find him expertly representing the wing staff at installation meetings; coordinating with mission partners to ensure four-star level events are executed with superior wing support; performing unit deployment manager responsibilities on behalf of the wing staff; or moving chairs at the museum for a promotion ceremony. No job is too small for Mr. Orwig to jump in to help, nor is any job too big for him to lead.

As my time at the wing draws to a close, it is the memory of the professionalism, skill, dedication, and innovation of the 21st SW Knights that will most readily come to mind in the years ahead--not the numerous awards that you have earned (although those are pretty good memories as well). Serving alongside each of you has been a tremendous honor and joy, and I wish the wing and each of its members Godspeed in the future.