JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SC, –
Fifty years ago, on Jan. 8, 1966, the 437th Airlift Wing began its presence in Charleston, SC. In the ensuing half-century, the U.S. would be involved all over the globe, and the Airmen from the 437 AW often played a part--a role that continues today.
In honor of this historic occasion for the airlift wing, its present commander, Col. Johnny Lamontagne, agreed to share some thoughts.
Q1) How does it feel to command the 437th Airlift Wing during this important milestone in its history?
A1) If I could only use one word it would be "Lucky." Commanding this wing is a very humbling experience each and every day. It's also a lot of fun to work with such a great military and civilian team in an amazing community.
Q2) Throughout its history, the 437 AW has seen numerous people and airframes come and go. Are there any constants that unite the wing?
A2) Three words: Rapid Global Mobility. This means moving people and cargo where they're needed most, when they're needed most--from paratroopers to armored vehicles to medical supplies. We've done this from Vietnam to Grenada, Panama, Desert Shield/Storm, the Balkans, Somalia, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom or our current operations around the world. We've played a big part in the rapid global mobility enterprise since we arrived in Charleston in 1966, regardless of what airplane we were flying...C-124, C-130, C-141, C-5 or the C-17. I suspect that our leadership in the Rapid Global Mobility enterprise will remain a constant over the next 50 years as well.
Q3) You've commanded the 437 AW for the last 19 months. During that time, has there been a particular mission that personally convicted you about the importance of the wing's mobility mission to national defense?
A3) It's tough to pick out one mission in particular, so I think I would highlight the diversity of what we do...from the challenging airland combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq; to the airdrop training we conduct with the 82d Airborne; to the occasional airdrop missions in Iraq and Syria; or the special ops community that we support. I'm also very proud of our ability to move from one challenging mission to another very quickly, whether that's training with the 82d Airborne Division at Pope or executing combat missions deep in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Q4) If you could look into the future, where would you hope to see the 437 AW, operationally, in another 50 years?
A4) Continue to move the rapid global mobility mission set forward. If you think about it, we are truly powered by Airmen and fueled by innovation. Our Air Force has come a long way, both in terms of the technology we use and the tactics, techniques, and procedures we refine over time to expand our capabilities. None of that greatness happens without our Airmen and civilians and their ability to develop and improve on our capabilities.
Q5) Let's turn our focus from operations to the community. What is the significance of this milestone from our perspective as Lowcountry neighbors?
A5) Since we arrived here in Charleston in 1966, we have received tremendous support from the community. If the next 50 years are half as successful as the past, then we will be in great shape. It's no surprise that many of our military members and DoD civilians retire in this community when they finish their careers. That's been happening for fifty years and I suspect it will continue for another half-century as well.
Q6) In light of that, would you like to say anything to the community?
A6) This time I'll use two words..."Thank you" for your support of our military members, civilians, and their families. Just about everyone on our team absolutely loves it here, and many of us return a couple of times over during our careers. It is a very special place for a lot of us. Thank you for making us feel so welcome and for your tremendous support over the last 50 years!
Q7) Finally, the 437th AW wouldn't exist without the Airmen, Civilians and Contractors who comprise it. Do you have any parting words for them?
A7) You are very good at what you do--the best I've ever seen. Thank you for the outstanding work you do every day, and please let us know how we can make the job easier or improve the quality of life in the 437th Airlift Wing. This wing's excellence preceded my arrival, and I am confident it will continue long after I'm gone. I am truly honored to serve in this wing alongside you.