Saying farewell, leaving the best behind

  • Published
  • By Col. Scott Reese
  • 319th Air Refueling Wing
As my time winds down here at Grand Forks and I get ready to head over to Manas Air Base in Kyrgystan, I get the feeling I’m leaving the best behind. Of course, there is my family, Anna, Skyler and Alex, whom I consider the best part of me. This is a tough way of life no matter who you are, and as many of our families here know, a year of separation is not something you ever get used to (or that you have a secret recipe for enduring). By supporting each other they get through it. In a perfect world, they would not have to. Still, I have to say I’d rather be a part of keeping terrorists and their allies on the run ‘over there’ than to invite another attack ‘over here.’ 

Another aspect of leaving the best behind is in leaving this winning wing. This wing produces more constant and direct support for the Global War on Terror than any other Air Force wing I know. Warriors of the North deploy and fly more than any other tanker unit and more than most mobility Air Force units. Our agile combat supporters are deployed all over the world, some alongside our Army counterparts, others deploy as a unit only to be spread across Iraq when they arrive. Simply put, this wing plays a major role in winning the war. And when we take a break – or as much break as our nation can afford – we take the time to hone our readiness edge. Through our exercise in preparation for our Operational Readiness Inspection, this wing has improved tremendously and our Airmen are indeed ready. We have also strived for constant improvement in facilities that make life here better for Airmen and their families alike, and although we’ve done great things in my two years here, the job’s not yet done. The new Northern Lights Club, complete with J.R. Rockers and its new menu will be a huge benefit for Airmen and families. Upcoming improvements in the community center and Ed’s Coffee Bar will make it a first-class place to meet. These things are important, but it is people that really make the difference. I’ve not worked with a better group of commanders, chiefs, first sergeants and Airmen than I have here. Their can-do attitude is incredible, and it’s been my honor to be associated with you all. On a more personal note, I have never worked with or for a better boss and commander than Col. Bill Bender, and I have to say Chief Harry Viel is at the top of the command chiefs I’ve ever known. They truly are an awesome team. 

Then there’s the Grand Cities. The genuine patriots of this community are supportive like none I’ve seen in our 12 previous assignments – and we’ve had great assignments. It is absolutely no surprise to me that last year the community won their second Abilene Trophy for best community support of an Air Mobility Command base. The community reaches out to the base in so many ways. A major example is Operation Enduring Friendship, not only the best commitment I’ve seen from any community, but an example which is being emulated in other communities as well – and it started here. Although this part of the country is justifiably know for sincerity and patriotism, the support of our Ambassadors and Honorary Commanders is simply second to none. And it matters a lot. Those who’ve been stationed here they know that despite the sub-zero weather, this is one of the warmest places in the country. Many elect to stay here after they retire and the community is a major reason why. 

I look forward to taking command of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing on June 8; if you’re in Central Asia area, please drop by. The year promises to be a challenging and interesting time, starting with the change of command where I’ll have to take frequent pauses in my speech to facilitate the Russian interpreters. Times have certainly changed when I entered the US Air Force in 1983. But from my current perspective, I’m leaving the best behind.