Friday, January 23, 2009

View from the top>>Thank you for the great memories

By Brig. Gen. Rowayne A. Schatz, Jr.
19th Airlift Wing commander

Tonight we will gather to recognize our outstanding Team Little Rock Combat Airlifters during the Annual Awards Banquet. This promises to be a fun evening as we celebrate the incredible mission success, professional development and community support that our superstar Airmen accomplished in 2008. I look forward to seeing everyone there to cheer on our nominees who are all winners!

Reviewing the annual award packages was a useful way for me to reflect on the past year. That reflection was timely because this is my last article in the Combat Airlifter as installation commander. Kim and I will depart Little Rock AFB for the Pentagon after a change-of-command ceremony next Wednesday when we welcome Col. Greg and Lisa Otey to take command of the 19th Airlift Wing.

As we depart, we simply wish to say thank you for the great memories and friendships we made during our 20 months as the first family of Team Little Rock. We thoroughly enjoyed every single day we served alongside this great team in this great community and are blessed to have had the opportunity to call The Rock home.

It’s not easy for us to leave. We will really miss the Airmen, family members and community leaders we’ll leave behind. I’ll miss flying the C-130 and being in command of the greatest wing of Combat Airlifters in the world. But it’s time to go since we’ve been called to serve elsewhere.

Chief Brinkley likes to use the saying, “Plant a tree so your successors can sit in the shade” when he talks about leadership. It’s a long-term viewpoint that matters. It is easier for Kim and me to leave knowing that we have a fantastic leadership team in place here at The Rock with phenomenal wing, group and squadron commanders, chiefs and first sergeants. They’ve internalized the Combat Airlift vision and will finish some things we’ve started, making Team Little Rock better and better.

I’m often asked why we change commanders every two years in our Air Force. I’m a believer that two years is about right for command tour length. We have many talented leaders in our Air Force who deserve the opportunity to command. Units grow from changing leaders too.

How does this work? We’ve accomplished some great things these past 20 months, but I’m sure we’ve fallen short in a few areas too. Colonel Otey will come to Little Rock and see things a little differently than me. This is good because that different angle and focus on things I missed will help make Team Little Rock better…which is the ultimate goal.

Kim and I know you will embrace Colonel Otey, his wife, Lisa, and their children with the same warm Little Rock hospitality you embraced us with the past 20 months. We know Team Little Rock will continue to excel under their leadership. We look forward to reading news stories about your future successes.

I admit we’ll be a bit misty eyed as we drive to Virginia immediately after the ceremony on Wednesday, but our sadness will be quickly overcome by the joy of the memories we’ll share of the great Americans we had the honor and privilege to serve with at The Rock. God bless you, and God bless America!
Combat Airlift!


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