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Proud to be on the F. E. Warren Team

  • Published
  • By Col. Timothy Dodge
  • 90th Mission Support Group commander
In just a couple short weeks since the beginning of the new year, there has been much adversity in the Mighty Ninety. There have also been additional developments to our continuing manpower and funding challenges. Among this adversity, there have been two unexpected deaths amongst our valuable Airmen, the loss of precious on-base jobs providing essential services to the wing mission and the impending closure or restructuring of some of our favorite community facilities. It is obvious that hard times have hit the men and women of F. E. Warren from several angles recently, yet we continue to see examples of strong teamwork from all over the base.

As we lament the deaths of the Airmen we call our own, we have seen the many professionals on this base join and work together as a sharp-focused team unlike any in recent memory. I am awestruck by the dynamic nature of our F. E. Warren team. There is a pride amongst our base community that not only perseveres but thrives during such adversity -- a pride that is not self-serving or boasting, but a pride that exudes caring, purpose, focus and teamwork. It can be argued that under the greatest adversity exists the greatest potential for doing good, not just for oneself, but especially for others.

The memorial for Tech. Sgt. Matthew Schwartz, 90th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, is a prime example of the awesome team effort displayed here. The tribute to honor his life, his service and his profession was second to none. It is comforting when the F. E. Warren Team pulls together to ensure those close to Schwartz are taken care of. As well, the team ensured we honored him in death. His immediate and extended family experienced the love and respect for Matt from all those who attended. I apologize up front for not recognizing all the team members who focused their efforts to ensure a memorable event and help provide a degree of closure for many, but there are too many to mention. Those who pulled together this feat in short order include our base chaplains, civil engineers, logistics readiness members, security forces defenders and many more essential team members. As well, our community at large was invaluable in their contributions. The Cheyenne Bomb Squad, the Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, the Patriot Guard, The Knights of Columbus, Veterans of Foreign Wars and many others played an important role. It was during this tough time that on-base and off-base partners were able to step up and look out for one another.

Unfortunately this past week, we also lost Airman 1st Class Brandon Tafoya, 90th Security Forces Group Tactical Response Force member. Both the deaths of Schwartz and Tafoya brought together the chaplain, medical and personnel expert teams in several forms to ensure both our EOD and TRF teams are able to deal with the traumatic loss of one of their own. The helping services these teams and others provide always come together for those in time of need. We will not soon forget the lives of these two Airmen, but we may see at least a small shining light in the fact their deaths brought the larger F. E. Warren Team closer together and showed the lasting spirit of the Mighty Ninety.

We also have experienced a loss of a different kind; the loss or potential loss of some of our civilian employees. As has been in the news, related to the nation's budget woes, the Air Force announced in November 2011 a reduction in its numbers by more than 9,000 civilian personnel and recently announced an additional 4,500 cuts in early January. The wing has taken a share of these cuts, in losing more than 100 temporary and permanent civilian positions. While some of these positions are vacancies, some are not. This has a significant impact to our workforce in both meeting the mission with reduced personnel, but also experiencing the destabilizing and emotional effects such job losses can have on those directly affected as well as their coworkers. However, there is an F. E. Warren Team working diligently to ensure as many employees as possible are placed in permanent positions. The 90th Force Support Squadron Civilian Personnel Office is working with squadron leadership, supervisors and the employees on a daily basis in a team effort to place as many of the affected as possible. Although the final outcome of all these cuts is uncertain, the big picture is to ensure as many are placed as possible to avoid, or if that is not possible, minimize any reduction-in-force impacts. Your Civilian Personnel Team and leadership are working hand-in-hand to ensure this to the very best of their ability.

The manpower challenges also have a partner in the funding challenges we face due to the same Air Force budget challenges. The closure or restructuring of some of our favorite community service facilities is unfortunately a reality in this current budget climate. To be quite honest, we won't be able to save all the traditional base community services we now enjoy. There is a very capable F. E. Warren Team stepping out to determine the way ahead; a team working very hard to rethink ways of doing business that will provide as much service to our local community as possible. As most functions will now need to be self-sustaining, we are working together to come up with solutions to consolidate and restructure how we provide community services here to maximize availability of those services. The 90th FSS Team has devised innovative ideas to keep many services open and we look forward to your continued participation.

Given recent events, the men and women of the Mighty Ninety could have understandably hung their heads, wallowed in guilt and self-pity, and thrown in the proverbial towel. However; if you take a minute to look around this base and look into the eyes of your teammates, you will see quite the opposite. You will see a tight-knit, strong-willed, cohesive team, radiating an insurmountable amount of pride! I am proud to be on the F. E. Warren Team!

I would like to thank a 90th Mission Support Group teammate, 1st Lt. Nick Spear, for his thoughts and contributions to this article.