Vice commander looks back on 32 years

  • Published
  • By Col. Al Hawley
  • 419th Fighter Wing Vice Commander
I'll be hanging up my G-suit for the last time on May 5 after 32 years of service. 

As I look back, I realize how incredibly fortunate I have been to be able to do this job for such a long time. 

Because my father and grandfather were both military aviators, being an Air Force pilot was the only thing I can ever remember wanting to be. 

I was so very lucky to have been able to realize that dream. It has been a long and happy adventure, and I had the opportunity to see places in the world I would never have been able to see had it not been for the Air Force. 

I enjoyed all of them (even the ones that were unbelievably hot). While I'm grateful to the Air Force for the travel opportunities, it is the people who have really made this a great experience. 

The thousands of hard-working patriotic individuals that have made it possible for me to continue to do my job as an aviator are the ones who deserve my gratitude. 

It is obvious you can't fly without the maintenance guys to fix and launch your jet.
However, it is not as obvious you can't fly without the people in the pay office, the budget office, the Military Personnel Flight, and other support unit personnel. 

But, these professionals have been essential to keeping me and all other pilots flying.
In fact, everyone in a blue suit contributes to getting the mission done. To fly, fight and win is a total team effort. Our Air Force civilians are just as essential to getting the flying and fighting done. This includes not only the ones in the wings to which I've been assigned, but also those who work in the depots and at higher headquarters.
I owe a debt to a lot of people. As I get close to the end, I find myself reflecting on how much I'll miss this job and why I had such a good time doing it. 

One thing that immediately comes to mind is the pleasant atmosphere knowing the people around me have shared my belief that integrity is important. 

But the really big thing that sets us apart from most other vocations is that all around us we have volunteers willing do the work knowing death is a very real possibility while getting the mission done. 

How could anyone not feel honored to be part of an organization like that?
Thank you for the opportunity to serve with you. You are what make our Air Force great!