Commentary | Aug. 4, 2009

Hunter 1 discusses priorities

By Col. Pete Gersten 432d Wing, 432d Air Expeditionary Wing commander

CREECH AFB, Nev. - A little over a month ago, I accepted command of the 432d Wing and realized I was about to embark on an incredible journey. 

I come from a proud military family. My grandfather served in the Navy, my father served in the Air Force, my wife is active duty Air Force, and with more than 2,800 flying hours and 200 combat missions in the F-16 under my belt, my Air Force career brings me to a mission in its infancy, and different than any other. Bottom line up front: I am proud to be a Hunter. 

The 432d Wing's mission is unique. We are tasked to effectively and efficiently use brand-new, largely untested technology in combat. There is no practice! We are forced daily to address our challenges in the heat of battle, learn from them, and move forward. The payoff for our efforts is best described with one powerful statement - today we in the 432d saved American lives. 

Whether a pilot, sensor operator, maintainer, mission intelligence coordinator, or one of our dozens of support providers, you help to ensure that sons and daughters return to their mothers and fathers, and that mothers and fathers return to their sons and daughters. 

I believe strong organizations are forged from people with strong values. My values include patriotism, honor, loyalty, family, discipline, respect. I developed these values over a life-time of experiences. I didn't just make them up. As members of the United States Air Force, your patriotism is shown every day by your willingness to serve. Discipline, honor, and loyalty are required to build trust - and trust is the backbone of any cohesive unit. Trust allows us to mold your patriotism into actions producing desired, concrete effects. I want all of you to know you have my trust. 

I believe we need to take care of both our blood family and our military, or Hunter, family. Take care of those who take care of you. I ask you to thank your spouse, give your parents a call and thank them for all of their support, or tell a co-worker 'thank you.' Without the support of our family, friends, and fellow Airmen, we would fail at our mission. Also remember those who stood before us. Make it a point to thank one of our veteran brothers or sisters for the sacrifices they've made. Their service to our Nation is the foundation for what we do today and we wouldn't be here without their efforts. 

We have some challenging times ahead. The demand for what we do will only increase. There will be times when you will be frustrated, but we must take this mission to the next level. I ask that you continue to put your best foot forward and keep in mind that our efforts result in lives saved every day. You have answered your Nation's call and I'm proud to serve alongside the men and women of the 432d and to be called "Hunter 1."