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NEWS | Oct. 3, 2012

Hansen bids farewell to ‘Team Charleston’

By Col. Erik Hansen 437th Airlift Wing commander

Team, last year I set out a strategy. That strategy was to position us as the Airlift Wing of choice. My purpose was to ensure that when our President and our military leaders needed critical no-fail airlift, they would call on us first. We did that by concentrating on our Wing core values of safety, precision, reliability and our emphasis on innovation.

What were the fruits of our labor? A 95 percent departure reliability rate ... 95 percent of our missions departed at their scheduled time. What makes that number even more impressive is that our on-time execution resulted in this Wing moving 42 percent of all air cargo destined for Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether we were directly supporting the movement of the President, or flying support to our war-fighters in the combat zone, or delivering hope to those affected by flood, earthquake or other disasters, we accomplished our mission through a concerted effort by each and every one of you and I'd like to take this final opportunity to thank you and your families.

In thanking you for your efforts, I'd like to recognize the individual teams in our Wing. To our airlifters: Pelicans, Eagles, Lions, our deployed Moose, and our Operations Support Squadron, thank you. To our maintainers: Blue Knights and Gold Gryphons, to our 437th Maintenance Squadron and our Maintenance Operations squadron, thank you. To our Port Dawgs, thank you. To our hardworking staffs at the Groups and at the Wing, especially Vice Commander Col. Al Miller, thank you. To our Joint Base partners including Col. Rich McComb and his team from the 628th Air Base Wing and Col. Jamie Fontanella and his team from the 315th AW, thank you.

Whenever I chat with local civic leaders, our discussions always center on the state of our country and our youth, and I've often heard concerns about the character of those that follow us, the next generation that will take our place. I reiterate again today what I've told our civic leaders so many times in the past - if you ever have any doubts about the courage, the professionalism or the sacrifice that we expect from our young people, you need look no further than the Airmen at Joint Base Charleston.

As an instructor pilot in the 17th Airlift Squadron and an operations officer in the 16th AS, the chance to return to Charleston and command this Wing was a dream come true. I arrived shortly after the C-17 made its home here in Charleston and I have seen this Wing change over the years - never did I consider that I would have the ultimate privilege to lead the 437th and I have enjoyed each and every day in command. When I think about the job of being commander, I always think first and foremost of my wife and my children. I remind myself that I would not have lasted a week in this job without their love, sacrifice and support.

As I think about the privilege of commanding the 437th, I know I leave you in excellent hands with Col. Hartford. Although we haven't known each other long, I know that he is an outstanding officer. I'm confident that he will lead you to even greater heights and that he will continue in our tradition of proven excellence and leading through innovation.

Finally, I urge each and every one of you to continue in your duties, to fight the good fight and to remain our nation's defenders in times of peace and in times of war. Just as in the Old Testament, your country has asked "Who will go for us? Who shall we send?" And you have raised your hand and said, "Here I am - send me" ... and that is why this country is great. As I move on to the next chapter in my career, know that it is you, my comrades and my fellow Airmen, who continue to inspire me. God Bless you all and farewell.