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‘Right’ is about Air Commando pride, dedication, achievement

  • Published
  • By Lt Gen Brad Heithold
  • Commander of Air Force Special Operations Command
In my commander’s calls on base and my speeches out in the community, I often highlight the accomplishments of our Air Commandos. You are doing some amazing things and I am truly moved by what I see. So what is ‘right’ about what we do?

‘Right’ is when our Air Commandos step up to the plate and stop at nothing to get the mission done. In 2013, Master Sergeant Ivan Ruiz, a pararescueman deployed with the 22d Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron, did just that. After infiltrating enemy territory as part of a joint special operations team, Ruiz and his teammates were confronted by intense insurgent crossfire. When two soldiers were wounded, Ruiz heroically sprinted through the gunfire to defend his teammates and provide life-saving care. Just a few months ago, I was proud to have the opportunity to gather together with our Air Commandos of all different specialties to recognize him as he became just the sixth Airman since the 9/11 attacks to earn the Air Force Cross.

Likewise, Major Gregory LeCrone stepped up to the plate in August 2014 when his MC-130J crew successfully delivered more than 21,000 pounds of life-sustaining ammunition and supplies to a special operations team that was isolated and under hostile fire in Afghanistan. LeCrone’s team accomplished this essential combat airdrop despite treacherous terrain, flying on only three engines and dumping fuel to allow the aircraft to support the delivery. The herculean effort to complete the first-ever MC-130J airdrop with an engine out earned LeCrone the 2014 Aviator Valor Award and demonstrated the “can-do” attitude of all our Air Commandos.

‘Right’ is also when we, together with our community, join forces to take care of our Air Commando family. Last October, I was humbled to speak at Building Home for Heroes’ presentation of a custom-built home to one of our own, retired Master Sergeant Joe Deslauriers. He was in Afghanistan in 2011 as an explosive ordnance disposal technician when his patrol was hit by three IEDs. After rendering safe a fourth IED and clearing a safe landing zone for a medical evacuation helicopter, Deslauriers was hit by a fifth IED, resulting in the loss of both of his legs and his left arm. I was moved by the support that our community showed him and his family over the years through generous donations and, ultimately, a home uniquely suited to his needs. The nation, throughout its history, hasn’t always welcomed back our heroes the way they deserved, but we learned, and this time we did it right.

‘Right’ is when we take a pause from the daily grind to recognize the outstanding achievements of our Air Commandos. It is crystal clear to me, since taking command nine months ago, that we have some incredible people in our command. We celebrated many of them at our headquarters annual awards ceremony a few weeks ago, and we continue to see more of our Air Commandos being recognized at the Air Force-level. For example, the 27th Special Operations Wing recently captured the Air Force Chief of Safety Outstanding Achievement Award for Weapons Safety. Senior Airman Anthony Dickens, a 24th Special Operations Wing resource advisor, was named Air Force Financial Management Airman of the Year and Technical Sergeant Jasmin Taylor, 919th Special Operations Wing, was named the Air Force Public Affairs’ Outstanding New Writer of the Year. Additionally, three of our Air Commandos, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Johns, Master Sergeant Daniel Wey, and Mister John Varner, earned 2014 Air Force Maintenance and Logistics Readiness Individual Awards. These are just a few examples of the many talented professionals I am proud to serve with.

We ask much of the men and women of this command. When you think about the campaign against violent extremist organizations, when you see those stories on the news, you have to know that we have a piece of the action. It’s our folks who are bringing the fight to our enemies every night across five continents and dozens of countries across the globe. It’s our crews and our teams who are taking care of the mission.

‘Right’ does not mean perfection, although that’s what we strive for. It means we’re holding ourselves to high standards, leading from the front, and taking care of one another.

That, Air Commandos, is what ‘right’ looks like to me.