NEWS | Dec. 14, 2011

2011: A quick look back

By Eric Sesit Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

This is the final edition of The Patriot for 2011 and it has been quite a year. To prepare this article, the staff at the 628th Air Base Wing Public Affairs office went back and looked at every story we published since January and came up with a top 10 list of what we feel were the most important stories of the year.

Now, for the purpose of this article, the word 'important' can have many different meanings as you will discover when you read the list. Many of you will probably have your own top 10 events of the past year, and this article is in no way intended to trivialize all the great accomplishments that have occurred during the past 12 months. We just wanted to recap what we thought were the highlights of an extraordinary year.

So, without further adieu....

#10. Charlie the Alligator moves home: Okay, the story wasn't about Airmen or Sailors, but nothing says Weapons Station to more people than Charlie, the twelve foot, 600-pound alligator who moved back into his pond in April after a remodeling job cleared away more than 60 years of accumulated silt and vegetation. Charlie has been a fixture at the Weapons Station since the 1960s and the Navy, now along with the Air Force will continue to provide him a home well into the future.

#9. Housing demolition begins on Joint Base Charleston - Air Base: Not only did Forest City Military Communities take over as the privatized managers of JB Charleston - Air Base's housing, they began demolition of the 468 existing housing units to make room for 335 new homes. The new units are scheduled to become available in the fall of 2012.

#8. Brig places service dogs: The Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston has teamed up with the Carolina Canines for Service organization and has placed several dogs with wounded warriors during the past year. The prisoners train service dogs that are then placed with wounded warriors. The prisoners learn new skills, the dogs are saved from shelters and our wounded warriors get a partner to help them continue with their lives. A win, win, win for all involved.

#7. General Raymond Johns visits Joint Base Charleston: It was a whirl-wind visit lasting only two days, but nothing turns on the sweat pumps like a four-star visit. In typical fashion, Team Charleston rolled out the red carpet for the general who visited several commands and coined a number of Airmen.

#6. U.S. Navy ships visit Charleston: The hardest thing about being a Sailor in Charleston is that there are no great big gray things floating in the water, so when a ship visits, it's a pretty big deal. USS Vicksburg, USS Gunston Hall and USS Farragut visited Charleston this year, enabling the Navy side of the base to familiarize their Air Force brethren on what it means to go down to the sea in ships.

#5. The Air Mobility Command Rodeo: Preparations for the AMC Rodeo held at Joint Base Lewis - McChord, Wash., dominated much of the news for the first half of the year as we documented the Rodeo team's preparations for the Air Force-wide competition. All the hard work paid off as the Rodeo team departed for JB Lewis-McChord on a Black Letter aircraft, a designation only given to aircraft that have zero discrepancies.

#4. The 628 ABW and 437th Airlift Wings change commanders: It's a ritual as old as the armed services themselves ... the Change of Command ceremony in which the authority and responsibility of command is passed on from one leader to another in front of their troops, signifying an unbroken chain in leadership. Col. Richard McComb assumed command of the 628 ABW and Col. Erik Hansen took over as commander of the 437 AW. New leadership brings in new ideas and new methods to accomplish the mission and both colonels are leading from the front.

#3. Joint Base Charleston hosts Gov. Nikki Haley: In another whirl-wind visit, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley came to JB Charleston to ceremoniously sign S.404, the Overseas Citizens Absentee Voters Act which makes it easier for South Carolinians abroad to participate in federal, state and local elections. Haley commented that, "The people in South Carolina feel a strong connection to the military because it's our families that we see deployed over and over again. It's our men and women that we watch sacrifice for our rights and liberties every day."

#2. The Air Show: When more than 70,000 of your closest friends and families drop in for an air show, it can make for a pretty big traffic jam. Not only did the Air show go off without a hitch with headliner acts like the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds and Tora, Tora, Tora thrilling the crowd, but excellent pre-planning ensured traffic on and off the base during the event never stopped moving. The show was so good that the Thunderbirds recently named the JB Charleston Air Show as their best air show of the year.

#1. The Operational Readiness Inspection: Our number one story should come as no surprise. The ORI loomed over JB Charleston throughout the year. Operational Readiness Exercises helped tune Team Charleston for the final inspection which wrapped up last week. So many people were involved in the inspection and the preparations were so extensive, that it is impossible to recognize everyone's contributions but that is what the base leadership did at the ENDEX party held Dec. 13.

So there you have it, some of the highlights of 2011.

The 628 ABW Public Affairs office publishes The Patriot 49 times a year and our goal has been and will continue to be to inform you as well as keep you "in the know" about base events. We have tried to be as inclusive as possible, representing and reporting on all the branches of service that make JB Charleston their home. Most times, we do a pretty good job, but there is always room for improvement.

We want to tell your stories. Let us hear from you. If you know of an event, or know of an Airman or Sailor with a special story to share, we want to know about it. Who knows, perhaps your story will be in next year's top ten list!