lt’s been the opportunity of a lifetime

  • Published
  • By Col. Jeffrey Hancock
  • 439th AW Vice Commander
It's difficult to summarize in a single sentence all the opportunities that the Air Force and Air Force Reserve have given me over my 30-year career. I've watched this wing grow to become the best in AFRC, bar none. The accolades that this group has won are truly amazing. They are a testament to the hard work across all units.

When the Secretary of the Air Force visited the Patriot Wing recently, part of our mission brief showed about 25 awards that the wing has been recognized for in just the last four years alone, and all the military operations and humanitarian missions in which Westover has participated.

Her comment, simply stated, summed up the wing: "You get it done at Westover!"

I've been lucky to have had great mentors here who took the time to guide me on how to be a better leader. Sometimes directly, but at most times, by watching and learning from some of the most incredible officers, NCOs and junior enlisted Airmen in the Air Force. I had the pleasure over my time here to watch some of our current squadron commanders, chiefs and senior NCOs professionally develop from when they started as young lieutenants and junior Airmen to become the Leaders of Excellence at the 439th. I tried to pass along those valuable lessons and mentorship that others provided me in my career. I encourage all of you to do the same.

As I look back, my most important ingredient for success was the support from my family. I couldn't have spent all the time training, supporting the mission and deploying, like many of you have done, without my family sacrificing my time with them. Thank you.

While the memories I have from my time here could fill books, the most important was a mission I flew from Iraq to Dover AFB, Del.

It had a lasting impression on me of the totality of the risks many willingly take when they join the military. Our precious cargo that day in the C-5 contained three flag-draped coffins of our fallen brothers in arms. I will never forget my emotions of both sadness and patriotism that flowed that day as myself and my crew carried the coffins down the ramp to the awaiting honor guard.

Never forget the ultimate sacrifice that some pay in the defense of our nation. Always take the time to thank a veteran for his or her service.

I had the pleasure to welcome the newest wing members over the past UTA. As I stood in front of members who had left active duty to join us and members who are brand new to the military, I could not help but recall the day, a little over 22 years ago, that I sat in those very chairs as the newest member of Westover. Little did I know then what the future in the 439th held for me. From day one, my new family in the 337th Airlift Squadron made my transition from active duty a welcomed one. I knew from that day that I had made the right decision to join the Patriot Wing. The comment I left that group with on my last UTA culminated the immense pride that I have garnered serving along with all members, past and present:

"You all have made the best decision in your careers when you decided to join the 439th Airlift Wing."

I know it 's true, because it's the best decision I ever made in my career. Thank you.