14th OG/CC says farewell to Team BLAZE

  • Published
  • By Col. David Reth
  • 14th Operations Group commander
Time really does fly by when you're having fun!

It's hard to believe I've been in command of the 14th Operations Group for two years already. It seems like just yesterday I was accepting the group guidon and starting a journey that would end up with 31 Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training class graduations and a bit over 160,000 hours flown by over 130,000 sorties to graduate over 600 new pilots.

But the numbers can't adequately paint the true picture of my absolutely great memories of the people here at Columbus AFB and all the unbelievable things we've accomplished.

I will always think back with a smile on the things that have made this assignment so special. The fantastic "Wings over Columbus" air show this past spring was a fitting tribute and exhibition of the awesome cooperation between every base agency and the local community that make up Team Blaze.

Won't we all remember watching the space shuttle Atlantis and its carryall 747 land here last summer? What a sight to make you feel proud to be an American! We've gone through together the construction of the base entry gates with the rerouting of traffic through the myriad of gravel and dusty roads to be rewarded by the fantastic new gates that are a fitting entry way into the showcase base of the South. I even have a few fond memories of my old house at the back of capital housing, which no longer even exists.

From holiday hayrides throughout the housing areas singing carols to the dorm dinners where the appetites of our Airmen were always a source of amazement, the great things this team does for its own made an impression not only on those receiving, but also on those fortunate enough to have a chance to give. And of course, my wife Angie and I will never forget the evening with the fire department and getting to repel down a building and go into a burning aircraft in full personal protective equipment.

This past week I've flown with all four of our training missions -- T-6 Texas, T-1 Jayhawk, T-38 Talon and T-38 IFF. It's an understatement to say that I am very proud of each and every member of the 14th OG. They are an amazing group of professionals that excel in their mission. While no surprise to me, it was also a great last reminder of the exceptional job this entire base does every day getting the mission of the wing accomplished in a stellar way -- that of training aviators. It truly is a team effort that goes on both in front of, and behind the scenes, to make it all happen so apparently effortless each and every day. From air traffic control and weather, to the fire department and fuels, to the crewchiefs on the line and the backshop maintainers out of sight, to the medics and engineers, it all comes together with the launch of almost 300 sorties every day.

Angie and I will miss not only the military community, but also the community outside the gates we also call home. The community welcomes for our senior leaders and special guests, Pilgrimage and tailgating at MSU games are but a few of the things that make this town such a special and great place to live in. The unwavering support and just plain friendship of Columbus and the entire Golden Triangle region have truly made a difference to each and every person here on base in some way.

It's often said for a successful assignment you should leave the campground better than when you found it. I sincerely hope I have done that, but I know for sure that this assignment leaves me better than I arrived because of what I have learned and received from this base, its people, and the surrounding area that embraces us into their community. In just a few days I will relinquish command and move on to Hill AFB for a new challenge. Part of me will always be here and look back on what I can honestly say has been the most fulfilling assignment of my career. Team Blaze rocks!