By Col. Mike Minihan
19th Airlift Wing commander
To say that 2011 has been a significant year in the lives of Team Little Rock Airmen, their families and our community would truly be an understatement. Ashley and I thank you and your loved ones for your service and recognize the sacrifices each of you have made to ensure the success and growth of all three wings here at “The Rock.”
This year has been one of unprecedented challenges and achievements. Some of the significant events this year include opening of the Jacksonville-Little Rock Air Force Base University Center, 314th Airlift Wing’s “Excellent” Unit Compliance Inspection, and the 19th Airlift Wing’s March ROCKEX. The 22nd Air Force Detachment 1 stood-up on base and now gives Team Little Rock members a new opportunity to continue answering their nation’s call to service as reservists. An incident that will continue to impact the base for years to come was April’s tornado and the amazing Team Little Rock and community recovery efforts in the aftermath of the estimated $82 million worth of damage. The 41st and 50th Airlift Squadrons also deployed 48 hours after the twister with eight C-130Hs models, eight C-130Js and more than 180 personnel -- no small feat. The 189th Operations Group transitioned to the Avionics Modernization Program flight training unit in May and in June the 189th Air Wing Rapid Augmentation Team won the Air National Guard and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Team Award. In June, the 19th AW geared up for inspections with an operational readiness exercise. The 314th AW returned from the July RODEO highly decorated as the Best Air Mobility Wing.
Any of these accomplishments singularly would be the sole significant event at any civilian business or other base for the entire year; however, at Little Rock AFB, we have risen to each occasion. Operations tempo like this has brought out the best wingmen, leaders and supportive friends and family the Air Force has to offer.
August and the months following brought on a whole new definition of operations tempo. The 314th AW finished their 2011 LCAP with flying colors, the Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School Flightline Upper Academy opened its doors to middle schoolstudents, the 53 AS deployed to support OEF and OIF, and the 19th AW scored an “Excellent” on their LCAP. In September the 19th flew away to Volk Field for their last practice before the operational readiness inspection. The base was awarded $100,000 as the AMC runner-up for the Commander in Chief’s Installation Excellence Award for quality of life improvements. October winds brought with it the 19th AW’s dominating performance during the AMC ORI and the celebratory Air Force Ball for all of TLR; it was undoubtedly a world-class event!!
Combat Airlifters will continue to make a global impact in the weeks, months and year ahead. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 1, 2011, 371 TLR personnel deployed to the area of responsibility. The deployments show no sign of stopping, more than 220 Airmen are scheduled to deploy in the upcoming months.
The dedication and attitude of each and every Airman on this base is what makes the difference. That infectious, can-do spirit leaves a lasting impression on every IG inspector, competition judge or community neighbor you meet – Team Little Rock Combat Airlifters are second to none.
It’s truly an honor to serve alongside the Airmen and families of Little Rock Air Force Base at home and abroad.