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Operating in a new chapter of challenges within our wing’s history

WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. --

Ever since arriving at Westover, I’ve heard about the challenges that stack up against Patriot Wing Reserve Citizen Airmen, and I’ve seen how this wing responds to these challenges -- time and time again.

During my assumption of command ceremony, I spoke at length about readiness. Little did I know at that time how ready the Patriot Wing was and continues to be. At the senior leadership level, my arrival here from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, in January, marked Col. Durham’s relief that he finally had his three group commanders in place. Then our commander got tasked to deploy overseas in February. This all while our wing continues its transition to the C-5M Super Galaxy. We’re the fourth and final Air Force flying unit to convert to this modernized aircraft. Our aircrews are working hard to keep up their training amid ongoing operational demands with the Air Force’s largest aircraft. Without skipping a beat, the Airmen of the Patriot Wing showed that they are ready for any challenge.

Within my operations team are the air traffic control tower and base operations staffs which manage a huge airfield and busy drop zone that our Air National Guard C-130 and Army National Guard helicopter crews often use.

Even with these demands, our people still take time to show off the C-5’s unmatched airlift capability. Most recently, a 337th aircrew hosted more than 180 high school students under the towering C-5’s nose visor during Westover’s ninth annual Youth Outreach. These students got a first-hand look at the military that many of their peers might never get. They learned more about the names and faces behind those huge jets they see flying over western Massachusetts. The students saw the character and integrity of our Airmen.

Our Air Force’s strength isn’t just its equipment like the C-5; it’s about the strength and dedication of the men and women who volunteer to serve their country. The 439th AW, one of the largest reserve units in the nation, pulls in Reserve Citizen Airmen from more than 30 states across America. Our reach with the C-5 is worldwide. I’m proud to work with the Airmen who represent our wing across the globe; they are the faces of the Patriot Wing.
Our upcoming Great New England Air and Space Show will showcase all of what I’ve written about in this article. We’ll celebrate the Air Force Reserve’s 70th anniversary with the theme, “Wings of Heritage, Shaping the Future.”  Westover has been open for almost 80 years -- and more than half of that time, the Air Force Reserve has been here, from the time the Strategic Air Command handed over the keys for the nation’s first Air Force Reserve base, back in April 1974.

I’m proud to lead our operations group in this chapter of Patriot Wing history, and to be part of our wing’s response to the challenges! Bring them! We’re ready!!!

by Col. Neil Hede
439th Operations Group commander